Heartworm life cycle
April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Living in the Mississippi Delta, we have one of the highest concentrations of heartworms. Why you ask? It’s because heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. That’s right, the little pterodactyl-like bugs that annoy the heck out of us, are what causes our dogs (and even cats and ferrets) to acquire heartworm infections.
Reservoir hosts of heartworms are typically coyotes and stray dogs, though many animals can become infected. Our pets acquire heartworms when a mosquito bites one of these reservoir hosts or another dog who is already infected. The mosquito inadvertently picks up baby heartworms from the blood stream. The baby heartworms undergo changes inside of the mosquito, and when it bites another animal the baby heartworms enter the bite wound. From there, they migrate until they make it to the heart where they mature into adults. This entire process, from entering the body to maturing in the heart, takes about 6 months.
Once mature, the heartworms can reproduce, releasing more baby heartworms in the bloodstream. These will be picked up by another mosquito, leading to a heartworm infection in a future animal. Once in the heart, the heartworms cause pathologic changes in the heart and lungs. This is when they usually start causing problems in our dogs. Untreated, many pets eventually become sick enough where they succumb to their illness.
Fortunately, heartworm disease is very preventable. There are several available products on the market that kill the baby heartworms, long before they can mature and make our pets sick. There are also products that repel mosquitoes.
More questions about heartworms and how they make our pets sick? Call us or check out the link below from the American Heartworm Society:
Most inappropriate behaviors by tame pet parrots are due to a lack of attention or understanding by their owners. Unfortunately, these behaviors are also very common reasons so many parrots end up in shelters or getting shuffled around from home to home.
Screaming and feather plucking are often the result of bored and frustrated birds. Parrots are incredibly smart, and, unlike dogs and cats, are not domesticated. In the wild, they spend a large part of their day foraging for food. They use their incredibly loud calls to communicate with each other from miles away. This is especially true for the larger parrots, like macaws and cockatoos. Almost all Psittacine birds (AKA Parrots) form monogamous pairs that mate for life.
In captivity, birds are often kept in a cage and do not have the opportunity to behave the way they would in the wild. They often can’t forage for food the way they would in the wild, and they can’t search for a mate. Many are left with very little in their cage to keep them occupied, and they are often alone for several hours. As a result, many parrots become bored and/or frustrated and start screaming a lot or plucking at their feathers.
To prevent these unwanted behaviors, parrots should be allowed several hours out of their cage everyday to exercise their wings and spend time with their owners. They should be part of their human "flock." They should also be supplied with a vast assortment of toys and other items that encourage appropriate chewing and foraging behaviors. The more time the parrot spends doing these appropriate behaviors, the less time the parrot has to get bored or frustrated. Parrots will still scream, even if they are perfectly content. It’s perfectly natural for them. The best thing the owner can do is to encourage the screaming at appropriate times.
Biting can be caused due to fear or inadvertent positive reinforcement by the owners. In the wild, parrots do not typically bite each other. Biting is not a natural behavior, but parrots do naturally use their beak to climb around and to forage. As a prey species, parrots can be flighty. If they become suddenly startled, they might latch on to whatever is closest to them…an ear, hand, finger. They might also use their beak to grab on to a person to help balance themselves. Some people also use their fingers as toys with young mouthy parrots that don’t have the bite force of an adult bird; eventually, the parrots might bite down harder than expected. A dominance component can also play a role in biting, as parrots are also more likely to bite if they are able to perch above their owners. If the person getting bit responds by jerking his or her hand away and yells at the bird, it actually encourages the biting behavior.
To prevent biting, it is important to not put the bird in a situation where it might bite and to not overreact in the event that a bite does occur. If at all possible, parrots should not be allowed on shoulders. They should also not have perches that allow them to be taller than their owners. Parrots displaying hormonal behaviors during breeding season should be handled carefully because they can become more aggressive during this time of year.
If these inappropriate behaviors become established, behavior modification is often used to try to eliminate the behaviors. If behavior modification alone is not successful, behavior modification drugs such as fluoxetine can be added to the treatment plan. While all of these inappropriate behaviors are commonly related to the above circumstances, medical issues should always be ruled out as causes.
This article covers inappropriate bird behaviors in a very general fashion. It is, by no means, intended to be all inclusive for every individual bird. Many other factors can play a role in these behaviors. Anytime a bird behaves abnormally, potential illness and husbandry should be evaluated by your regular avian veterinarian.
For us, the Fourth can be a great holiday to celebrate with family and friends...the fireworks, the social gatherings, the food. For our pets, the Fourth can be an incredibly stressful time, as well as dangerous...the fireworks, the social gatherings, the food.
Let's start with the fireworks. Did you know that the Fourth of July is among the busiest days for animal shelters around the country? Many animals get scared of the loud noises and run off, many times only to end up in the animal shelter or on the side of the road. If at all possible, keep your pets inside during the festivities of the holiday.
Many people have cookouts on the Fourth. While this can be fun, sometimes people coming and going can allow a dog to sneak out of the house or yard unnoticed until it's too late. Food is also of concern because any kind of cooked bones or typical cookout food can cause tummy issues for our pets.
Keep these things in mind when celebrating the Fourth with your family, friends, and pets.
Happy National Pig Day
It's March 1st, so that means it's National Pig Day! While everybody knows that pigs are used for food, and most people know they are also kept as pets, there's a lot you probably don't know. In honor of today, here are some random tidbits on pigs.
Male pigs are boars
Female pigs are sows (gilts when young)
Baby pigs are piglets
The act of giving birth is referred to as farrowing.
Pigs are even-toed ungulates with 4 hoofed toes on each foot, placing them in the Order Artiodactyla (along with deer, hippos, cattle, giraffes, llamas, etc.).
Pigs are known to be highly intelligent and trainable. They can, however, be aggressive, and human injuries due to pigs are fairly common (pigs have 44 teeth, and they will use them).
Pigs have been successfully trained as "truffle hogs," sniffing out and digging up truffles (in case you didn't know, a truffle is a certain kind of mushroom).
Pigs are very prone to hyperthermia.
Domestic pigs typically weight 110 to over 700 pounds (some even up to 1000), though most are sent to market between 220 and 400 pounds.
Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs are commonly kept as pets (George Clooney had one for 18 years). They can weigh between 60 and 110 pounds, though some are considerably larger. They are prone to obesity. Their life expectancy is 12 to 20 years. They can be house trained.
Now there are also "miniature" and "teacup" pigs, but while they might be small for a pig, they will still likely grow to be relatively large compared to other pets.
Photo credit: http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/pig-lung-works-with-human-blood/
So, Thanksgiving is over. That means a lot of you are decorating for Christmas (or maybe you started decorating earlier). While decorating, keep in mind that not all decorations are pet-friendly.
Decorative plants can be potential sources of toxicity. Poinsettias are well known to be toxic, though generally only cause mild signs (mouth and stomach irritation, vomiting). Mistletoe can also be toxic, causing gastrointestinal issues and even cardiovascular collapse. Holly, too, can be highly toxic.
The Christmas tree, whether real or artificial, can also pose risks to pets. Pine needles can puncture your pet's intestines. Ingested ornaments can cause a wide variety of problems, depending on the material the ornament is made from. Cats (and even some dogs) with an inclination to climb the tree could end up pulling the tree down. Even some of the water additives used with real trees can make pets sick.
Electrical cords and lights can be potential sources of electrocution if chewed on by curious pets.
Be sure to keep holiday food out of your pet's reach as well. Candy, cookies, and nuts can all upset your pet's gastrointestinal tract, and some can make your pets incredibly sick. Chocolate can cause a variety of symptoms, including digestive issues, dehydration, excitability, a slow heart rate, seizures, and even death. Macadamia nuts can cause depression, rear limb lameness, vomiting, and tremors. Anything fatty, in general, can lead to pancreatitis. Large amounts of salted nuts can cause sodium toxicosis.
And, finally, tinsel and ribbon. Keep both of these out of reach of your pets. It might seem harmless to let your cat play with tinsel or ribbon, but both can be incredibly dangerous if your cat eats them. Both can easily become life-threatening linear foreign bodies (basically, one end of the linear object anchors somewhere and the rest of it continues to travel through the gastrointestinal tract), wrapping around the intestines and requiring surgery. Think about what happens when you see a loose thread on a blanket, and it sometimes bunches up the material when you pull on it. That's what tinsel and ribbon can do to a pet's intestines. Even worse, the tinsel and ribbon can cut through the intestines. If you have a cat and absolutely insist on using tinsel and ribbon in your decorating, make sure it is completely out of your cat's reach (easier said than done).
There are many more things our pets can get into, so use common sense when decorating for the holidays.
Please, Don't Feed the Animals
As the holidays are fast approaching, food will be coming from all directions. Make sure the food doesn't make its way into your pet's mouth.
While many things we eat are relatively harmless to our pets, many things can make our pets incredibly sick. Even something as seemingly harmless as giving your dog a turkey bone can have disastrous consequences.
Who really wants to spend a late night at the vet clinic with their beloved pet having surgery to have a piece of bone removed from its stomach or throat?
Even that "little piece" of turkey (or stuffing or pie or anything else that might be on the dinner table) has the potential to give your pet an upset stomach (complete with vomiting and/or diarrhea) or pancreatitis (with possibly worse vomiting and/or diarrhea than just an upset stomach, likely requiring one of those after hours vet visits and maybe hospitalization).
So, remember, table scraps and pets don't always mix. If your pet begs, defer its attention to its food or treats, or, alternatively, relocate your pet to a different room or its crate. Your pet will thank you later.
...just remember to keep the chocolate and other sugary sweets out of reach of your furry family members.
Pet Parrots: What You May Not Know
Parrots comprise well over 300 species of birds. Examples include budgerigars (pictured to the left), macaws, and cockatoos.
While they may seem lower maintenance than a dog or cat due to their much smaller size, all species of parrots require a lot of time and attention.
The most common reason pet parrots get sick is often due to a husbandry error, especially caging requirements, environment, and diet.
Parrots require a cage wide enough to spread their wings and tall enough that their head and tail don't hit the top and bottom of the cage. Caging must also be made out of parrot-safe materials. Many kinds of wire mesh contain zinc and other substances that are extremely toxic to birds. Many parrots tend to climb around the cage bars with their beak, so anything toxic on the bars has a high probability of being ingested. Any wood on the cage should not be treated with chemicals either (if the parrots can reach the wood, many will chew on it).
Due to their small size and sensitive respiratory systems, parrots are also highly susceptible to their environment. Everyday things we use like air fresheners and non-stick cookware can kill a bird. Non-stick cookware releases toxic chemicals when heated. Bug spray, cigarette smoke, and even some candles can also quickly kill a bird.
Many parrot owners purchase seed mixes for their parrots to eat. While part of a parrot's diet should include seeds, much of their diet should come from fresh vegetables and fruits. A pelleted formula is also recommended to fill in any nutritional gaps. Left to decide on their own, many birds will eat mostly seeds, so it is important to make sure they eat their veggies too (some owners find it easier to give their parrots meals throughout the day, having fresh veggies available throughout the day but not giving the parrots access to seeds all day). Dark leafy greens (e.g. broccoli, kale, cilantro) and carrots are very good for most parrot species. Fruits are also great, but they should make up a smaller portion due to their higher sugar content.
Dairy products containing lactose should be limited or excluded. Birds are not able to digest lactose.
In general, supplements are not necessary if the diet is adequate. A cuttlebone and mineral block, however, should be available to a pet parrot.
There are dietary differences between some species, so what is good for one may not be acceptable for another. Hyacinth macaws, for example, can live almost exclusively on various nuts, and cockatiels should be limited in the amount of sunflower seeds they are given because many will eat them to the exclusion of everything else (sunflower seeds are high in fat and low in nutrition).
In closing, here is a list of things to NEVER feed your parrot:
Sugary, fatty foods
This article does not cover every aspect of parrot care. Always research the specific requirements of the parrot you are interested in acquiring to ensure its individual needs are met. Avian veterinarians and reputable breeders are both excellent sources.
Random Ruminant Info
August is National Goat Cheese Month (really, it is). In honor of that, we'll share some tidbits about ruminants.
First off, what is a ruminant? A ruminant is an animal that has a stomach made up of four compartments (rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum). They include cattle, sheep, goats, giraffes, deer, bison, and many other related species. There are also pseudo-ruminants that include camels, alpacas, and llamas that have three compartments.
The rumen of ruminants is specially designed to break down plant matter that the animals would not be able to break down on their own. Various microorganisms live in the rumen to help with this process of fermenting and digesting.
Giraffes are the tallest ruminants (and the tallest land animals).
Cattle, sheep, and goats can all be raised for meat and dairy products. Sheep and goats are also used for wool and fiber, and cattle are used for leather.
The Ancient Egyptians worshipped Hathor, a cow goddess of love and motherhood. In Hindu-dominant countries like India and Nepal, cattle are still regarded as sacred, and injuring or killing them is a crime.
Contrary to the notion that they will eat anything, goats are actually quite discriminant about what they eat. They will, however, taste a variety of things.
A male goat is a buck or billy. A castrated male is a wether. A female goat is a doe or nanny. Young goats are referred to as kids.
A male sheep is a ram, and a female is a ewe. A castrated male is a wether. Young sheep are referred to as lambs.
In cattle, males are bulls (steers if castrated), females are cows (heifers when young), and babies are calves.
Vacations & Pets
It's summer time, and that means that a lot people are traveling. If you're a pet owner, that also means that you must decide what to do with Fido or Fifi when you go. Many owners simply board their pets at a vet clinic or boarding facility, and some owners pay for someone to watch their pets in their home. There are, however, still owners who opt to take their pets on vacation with them.
If traveling by car, there are a few measures you can take to assure a safe and enjoyable drive. The safest place for your pet to travel is in its crate. Sitting on your lap is probably the most unsafe place for your pet to travel...for both you and your pet. If your pet is not used to long distance traveling, do a few quick test runs before your actual trip, gradually increasing the length of the car ride. If your pet is not used to being crated, leave the crate out well before your trip, with the door open so your pet can go in and out freely. Alternatively, there are specially designed seat belts and other equipment to keep your pet safe and secure in the car. If you know your pet gets car sick or overly anxious on trips, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe medications for your pet to relax their tummies and minds. Also, withhold food from your pet several hours before traveling to help prevent any upset tummies (don't withhold food from young puppies and kittens or other pets that cannot physically tolerate fasting).
If traveling by plane, make sure your airline of choice will also transport your pet. Each airline will have specific requirements for flying your pet, including specific climate conditions, crate types, and even the size of your pet. If it is too hot or too cold, most airlines will not fly your pets. Check with your specific airline for their requirements.
If traveling out of state or out of country, your pet may need a health certificate, certain vaccinations, or even to be quarantined on arrival. Check the laws of your destination (or ask your veterinarian to help you find this information) to make sure you have the appropriate health papers and records for your pet.
Check hotels and other lodging prior to your vacation to make sure they are pet-friendly and that you know the details of their pet policies.
The most important thing to remember about traveling with your pet is to plan ahead.
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