It's June, and that means it's National Pest Control Month. So, from a veterinary perspective, what pests do we want to control? How about fleas, ticks, biting flies, and pterodactyls...I mean mosquitoes. Not only are many of these bugs a menace to your pets, but they can cause serious diseases in your pets (and you!).
Fleas are, by far, the most common external parasite of pets, making flea allergy dermatitis the most common skin disease of cats and dogs. The most common species of flea found on our pets is Ctenocephalides felis. The most successful way to control fleas is to disrupt their life cycle. That means that owners must treat both their pets and the environment (house, yard, etc). Adult fleas live on your pet, where they eat and reproduce. The fleas seen on our pets make up only about 5% of the total flea population...the other 95% is found in the environment. Flea eggs, in general, fall off the host shortly after they are laid. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae develop, feeding on digested blood (poop) that has fallen from the host from the adult fleas. The larvae grow, finally making cocoons (pupae). The pupae can remain dormant for months, and emerge when suitable conditions are present. Vibrations, warming, and increased carbon dioxide can all signal to the pupae that a suitable host is present for them to inhabit. This entire life cycle can take as few as 16 days. The best control methods are treating pets to prevent them from bringing fleas into their environment and to treat the environment. Many products are available and include monthly topicals, pills, and sprays.
In addition to the itching fleas can cause pets (and even you), fleas can also lead to anemia in animals (especially in young puppies and kittens), tapeworms (from ingesting fleas), and diseases like plague (that last one is pretty rare around here, but it is a disease that can also occur in people).
Ticks are another pesky little parasite, but, unlike the other pests on this post, they are not insects. Ticks can act as vectors to transmit many diseases that people and animals can both acquire. A couple of examples are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. They can also cause a syndrome known as tick paralysis, in which the nervous system is affected by the presence of a tick. Ticks can be controlled by various products, including monthly topicals, sprays, and PrevenTic collars, among others.
Biting flies tend to like chewing on dogs' ears and open wounds. They can be controlled with creams that can be applied to the pets' ears, some monthly topicals, and sprays.
And, finally, we reach the mosquito. Aside from being a nuisance by biting and making us itch, mosquitoes can cause a wide variety of conditions. Around here, in the Mississippi Delta, the biggest condition they lead to is heartworm disease. Recommendations for controlling these giant six-legged monsters include leaving no standing water for the mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Many cities have trucks (or small planes) that release chemicals meant to kill the mosquitoes. Some monthly topicals and sprays are labelled to repel mosquitoes, but, at least around here, there doesn't seem to be much that makes a dent in their population. It is critically important that pets remain on heartworm preventatives year-round.
April is Heartworm Awareness Month, so it's only fitting that we provide you with a little insight into the life of the heartworm. Heartworms start life as microfilariae (also known as L1 or baby heartworms). Mosquitoes pick up the microfilariae when they ingest blood from an infected animal. Inside the mosquito, the larvae molt twice until they are at the L3 stage. Upon puncturing the skin of an animal, the L3 migrate from the mosquito's mouth parts into the puncture wound. From there, they migrate through the animal's body with the goal of maturing at the heart. In the right host, the adult heartworms reproduce, and the female heartworms release microfilariae in the bloodstream.
Everyone (or at least everyone around here) knows that dogs are pretty susceptible to heartworms, but did you know that cats can get heartworms too?Heartworms are adapted to live in a dog but not so much in a cat. In cats, heartworms are usually unable to develop in the numbers necessary to successfully reproduce (they often have single sex infections or don't produce reproduce to a level that is detectable). Also, while heartworms primarily reside in a dog's heart, heartworms in a cat primarily live in the lungs.
We've posted some life cycles below so you can compare.
As Easter is fast approaching, many parents are probably thinking (or have already gotten) a baby rabbit for their kids. Here are some FYI facts about rabbits.
Oryctolagus cuniculus, also known as the European or common rabbit, is generally the species of rabbit people keep as pets. A rabbit's muscle mass is more than 50% of its body weight, with the skeleton only making up about 7-8%. They have a digestive system very similar to horses (both of which cannot vomit). Their jaws make about 120 movements a minute.
Males are called bucks, and females are called does. They are quite successful at reproducing. Baby rabbits are called kits. Do not disturb a mother and her newborns. She may end up cannibalizing the kits.
Behavior-wise, rabbits tend to be active and curious (and some can be escape artists). They move around by hopping and may stand on their hind legs sometimes. They tend to bolt or cower when frightened.
They can be messy...their feces (poop) are usually small round pellets. Their urine can be clear red or yellow or milky yellow (because they have a lot of minerals in their urine). They also produce another kind of feces, that their owners probably never see, called night feces. The rabbits eat this kind of feces to recycle protein, water, and B vitamins (appetizing, huh?).
Rabbits can be housed indoors or outdoors and can be trained to use a litter box. Where ever you house them, they need some type of hiding place so they can feel secure. They'll also need protection from predators and temperature extremes. If they get too hot, they will not increase their water intake, and they only sweat from their lips (they're pretty good at conserving water). When deprived of water, they also stop eating (one of the first signs of a sick rabbit is loss of appetite). They use their ears to help them cool off.
While rabbits can co-habit peacefully with other species (like Guinea pigs), it is not recommended because they can infect other animals (like Guinea pigs) with Bordetella bronchiseptica (one of the factors in the "kennel cough complex").
This information is from a lecture given by Lucy Senter, DVM at Missississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, originated in the Andes Mountains of South America. Among pet rodents, they are known for their generally docile temperaments. Interestingly, they are more closely related to porcupines and chinchillas than they are to hamsters and gerbils. They have an average lifespan of 4-6 years.
A male is called a boar, and a female is called a sow. There is little sexual dimorphism, so it can be hard to distinguish males and females.
Guinea pigs make several noises, including squeals and whistles. They are easily startled and panic easily. They can be rather messy, and their cages require frequent cleaning.
On a dietary level, Guinea pigs differ from most other pet rodents because their bodies cannot make their own Vitamin C. It is critical that they eat a diet specifically designed for Guinea pigs. Otherwise, they will develop diseases including scurvy.
If you've ever heard anyone say that you shouldn't house Guinea pigs and rabbits together, this is why. Guinea pigs are susceptible to Bordetella (part of the complex of pathogens that causes "kennel cough" in dogs). They may serve as carriers or show signs of pneumonia. Other carriers include rats, rabbits, dogs, cats, swine, and primates.
Send us any of your other Guinea pig (or other pet-related) questions!
March is National Poison Prevention Awareness Month, National Adopt a Guinea Pig Month, National Nutrition Month, and National Kidney Month.
We'd love to hear your questions on any of these topics, and we'll post the answers here! Just use our "Questions? Comments?" link. http://www.clevelandamc.com/questions-comments.html
Dogs and cats have diphyodont teeth. That means they go through two sets of teeth, just like we do. Puppies and kittens have sharp deciduous (baby) teeth that they normally lose and replace with their adult teeth by the time they're about six months old.
As they're losing their baby teeth and growing in their adult teeth, puppies (and even kittens) like to chew...a lot. Make sure to give them an outlet for their teething, or they might start using your shoes and furniture. Make sure the things they chew on are safe for them, and discard toys once they start breaking into small enough pieces to swallow.
Just as important as providing them with things to chew on, start conditioning them to having their teeth brushed. While it won't really have a vast effect on their baby teeth since they'll lose those anyway, it will get them used to having their mouths messed with. Start simple, and just use your finger (or a finger brush) to "go through the motions". Once they get used to it, you can introduce a dog/cat toothpaste (NOT human toothpaste!) and a toothbrush.
Brushing your pet's teeth everyday will provide benefits similar to you brushing your teeth everyday: less tartar, better breath, and better oral health overall.
February is Pet Dental Month, and, accordingly, Animal Medical Clinic has great dentistry-related deals going on throughout the month.
In addition, we'll be kicking off our owner-education series of blogs with this month's blogs focusing on dental care.
Keep checking back for more!
What? Pet Photos with Santa
When? Saturday, December 17th, 2011
Where? Animal Medical Clinic
Time? 11 AM - 2 PM
Cost? $5 per pet
Proceeds will benefit Animal Medical Clinic's Good Sam Fund, a special fund that allows an animal to receive medical treatment when there is no owner or no money.