Heartworm Prevention in 2022

Pathogens that cause heartworm disease, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis continue to spread throughout the United States. Risks have increased due to rehoming of pets, changes in distribution and prevalence of vector populations, changes in wildlife populations and their incursion into newly developed and reclaimed areas, changes in habitat due to natural or human-induced processes, and the short and long-term changes in climatic conditions. Ticks and mosquitoes remain the principal transmitters of pet and human vector-borne pathogens.

The 2022 forecasts, supported by ongoing research, highlight areas where we can do more to lower the risk of exposure of companion animals to vectors of disease. The best preventive measures that veterinarians and their clients can take is to prevent contact between companion animals and these vectors. The foundation of these prevention strategies are recommendations of products that kill and/or repel mosquitoes and ticks, and the practice of year-round heartworm prevention.

Visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s website for the full article … and ask us about the best prevention methods for your pets!

Heartworm in the U.S.

*Image courtesy of CAPC

Wash Your Paws!

Help Us Stop the Spread of COVID-19, and Wash Your Paws!

With a few recommended precautions, we feel that we can greatly reduce our chances of contracting or unnecessarily spreading the virus while still maintaining the level of patient care that our clients have come to expect from us.

Since social distancing may be key to reducing the risk of this virus, our staff is making an extra effort to limit direct contact with our clients – we will avoid handshakes or other forms of direct contact and keep our distance.

We understand the gravity of what the world is going through and know that it’s important to limit our social interactions, both at here at the clinic and outside of work, over these next few weeks/months. Keeping infection rates low is a community-wide effort! We are doing our best to keep our staff and clients safe while still providing needed care services.

Per the guidelines put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health in response to COVID-19, Companion Care Veterinary Clinic recommends the following:

Be Like Frank.

dog washing paws

Frank follows the CDC guidelines and washes his paws often. Wash your hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds frequently and avoid touching your face.

Be Like Frank and Jackson.

dogs social distancing

CDC recommends social distancing to slow to the spread of COVID-19. Frank and Jackson are six or more feet apart while waiting in line for a cookie.

Be Like Jackson.

dog wearing medical mask

The CDC recommends you wear a facemask if you are sick and are around other people. However, it is best to just stay home. If you are not sick you do not need to wear a facemask, unless you are caring for someone who is sick.

For more information about COVID-19 and recommendations to help stay healthy, please visit the CDC’s website.

Thank you for choosing Companion Care Veterinary Clinic

We are happy to try to provide an environment that makes people feel safe. In an attempt to accommodate individual needs, we would welcome phone calls regarding any sort of needs we must meet prior to medical visits. We also offer car-side veterinary care in which we can bring animals into the clinic while owners wait in their vehicle and all contact can be made over the telephone.

Tough Love Isn’t a Bad Word …

Tough Love Isn’t a Bad Word When it Comes to Puppy Training

I think that one of the more enjoyable parts of being a general practitioner is that I get the opportunity to take on the challenge of teaching families how to make their newest four-legged family member follow some of the same rules that the two-legged members are expected to. Owning a dog or a cat should be fun, but in many cases the newest family member is given the freedom to behave as they wish and that sets the precedent for a dog to be intolerant of any situation where they are not in control: grooming, kenneling, walking on a leash, confinement, etc. Molding/requiring good behavior at a very early age is likely the most important responsibility of an owner that has little bearing with their overall health.

Puppy Training is Essential For a Well-Behaved Dog

Raising a well behaved dog is not determined by which breed of dog you own or whether or not they have an “alpha/beta dog” mentality. Although there are multiple factors that go into how easy it may be to shape good behaviors into habits, my experience has taught me that it is the reputation of dogs as being naturally intelligent that actually hinders clients more than it helps them. I have to remind owners that term “puppy behaviors” is a dangerous label as very few of those activities (poor leash walking, intolerance of a kennel, jumping up on people, chewing on inanimate objects, etc.) will self resolve as a dog gets older. Dogs do not know how they are supposed to behave unless they are given some sort of feedback by way of verbal or non-verbal communication.

I often times joke that if I were to make a bumper sticker to give away to new dog owners it would say: “A Well Behaved Puppy is the Sign of a Committed Owner.” A misbehaving dog says as much, if not more, about the owner than it does about the canine. One of the problems with getting a puppy to be well behaved is that, much like a toddler, a day’s worth of time and energy spent focused on rules and appropriate behaviors seems to be deleted from their memory when they go to bed at night. Part of teaching families what it looks like to get a well behaved dog is having them recognize that the process takes time and it requires a consistent message and a repetitive pattern of behavior. The process itself can become frustrating because it takes time but I always try to encourage owners that if they can tap into the natural tendency of dogs to aim to please, or at least work for a reward, the hard work that they put in over the first year of a dog’s life will pay off.

Consistency is Key to Successful Puppy Training

What dog owners come to realize with canine intelligence is that it is less about them being logical and more about them being pattern recognition specialists. Consistency is key as dogs need to ability to expect what sort of reward or consequence will come as a result of certain behaviors. In the absence of a consistent message, dogs struggle to become proficient at those tasks that are learned behaviors. Owners often respond better to the characterization that dogs, much like kids, struggle when left to their own devices. If owners can buy into the fact that pets need parenting just like kids do, it makes it much easier to deal with the “tantrums” that dogs throw when they are frustrated and testing the limits of an owner’s will power.

Tough love gets a bad reputation as it is merely the willingness for owners not to give in when puppies whine or cry about discipline. While it is true that you can make any breed of dog become a good family pet, the timeframe for that process to be made easier on the owners is absolutely within the 12-18 months of life, before those behaviors become habits. Owners should never think of themselves as being too rigid or withholding if they commit to limiting freedoms or unsupervised activities in young dogs as our job as a veterinarian is made significantly easier when a patient is both tolerant and has self control. It’s okay to spoil these pets as they are members of the family, but remember that their behavior is more of a reflection rules of the household than it is of the personality traits of their breed.

Be Well,

Dr. Jablonski

The Best Medicine for Your Pet

Preventative Medicine is the Best Medicine for Your Pet

I think that one of the unexpected challenges of being a medical practitioner, be it a veterinarian or human doctor, comes in the form of accepting the fact that our patient’s health is often a direct reflection of our ability to be an effective communicator and teacher. I find that this is regularly true when it comes to explaining to patients/clients that Standard of Care is more of a concept than it is a tried and true course of treatment. The fact that research and development has led to new vaccines and medications or that the access to diagnostics is no longer a rarity in smaller towns or smaller practices is something that creates a void where teaching is a necessity because, now more than ever, veterinary medicine reflects those same advances that people most often associate with human medicine.

It is a weekly occurrence in our practice to sit down with a client to explain what we have deemed as the core components of a patient’s Standard of Care and to be met with some degree of unfamiliarity of what the purpose is for each of those pieces. Although Standard of Care may be a more familiar term for the items that we have determined to be necessary to avoid common illnesses, it is really just a coy way of guiding our patients and clients down the path of preventative medicine. What we often times have to stop to explain is that being more engaged and aware in their pet’s life when they are healthy is what can determine how much longer and healthier those lives can be.

The Benefits of Early Diagnosis

This concept applies perfectly to yearly wellness checks and problem-based visits for senior pets. In the realm of medicine, preventative implies that the outcome, however mild or severe, has some ability to be avoided by taking the necessary precautionary steps to “catch” abnormalities early enough to stop or reverse the disease processes. Because the idea of health being thought of as fluid environment where things are always moving towards or away from the ideal state is a difficult concept to envision, preventative medicine is the time where a patient is healthy is oftentimes a challenging approach.

The term Preventative Medicine is one of those ideas where the definition of the word is vitally important to the concept. When we have patients that come in for wellness visits that have been doing fine and are the picture of health, it is often expected to be a very short conversation with the owner because there are no issues for us to address. What I have learned as a veterinarian is that by not taking the opportunity to talk with owners about common illnesses such as renal failure, liver disease or even obesity makes my job harder in the long run. It is significantly more difficult to reverse a disease process that has been going on for a while than it is to sit down to explain to an owner why a baseline of diagnostics or a commitment to routine medical care can give us a clearer picture of health and make my job easier.

Routine Veterinary Tests and Laboratory Services

What sort of laboratory services people have come to expect with their own physicals when they go to the doctor have now become cost more effective and easily accessible in veterinary medicine. Routine chemistry panels and blood counts, urinalysis and thyroid hormone testing have become the standards of care where preventative medicine is concerned. When combined with a thorough physical exam, clients now have the ability to make more informed, correct decisions where diets, supplements, and medications are concerned.

There is a category of illnesses such as immune mediated diseases or some types of cancers where it is not fair to apply the concept of preventative medicine because owners do not really have much control over whether or not their pets will eventually be diagnosed with certain conditions. What remains true is that routine veterinary care and examinations can often catch those illnesses earlier in the disease course and give options that offer the possibility for cures rather than just palliative care.

Our Commitment to Care

At Companion Care Veterinary Clinic, we embrace the challenging parts of veterinary medicine as part of our agreement by being in business. We would much rather take the time to create informed owners and cultivate a healthier population of patients now than we would by pushing those difficult conversations off until a later date when we have fewer options for intervention. We understand that spending money to be given a clean bill of health often feels like a catch twenty-two, and while the value of prevention is really hard to quantify for each individual patient, research has shown that more quality time is available the sooner we can diagnose treatable illnesses.

We hope to be part of all of your pet’s health care needs.

Be Well.

Dr. Jablonski and the CCVC Team

Avoid Toxic Holiday Treats!

Keep the Holiday Treats to Yourself:

Holiday Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets

Chocolate, macadamia nuts, avocados … these foods may sound delicious to you, but they’re actually quite dangerous for our animal companions. We often find that the opportunity for dietary indiscretion increases around the holidays as an abundant amount of food is left unattended or our sneaky family members decide to go “dumpster diving” in the trashcan and garbage gut ensues. As always, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the toxic holiday treats listed below, please note the amount ingested and contact us immediately.

Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine

These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Pet owners don’t usually give items containing alcohol to their pets intentionally, but around the holidays there are certainly more opportunities for spiked beverages to be in open containers and dogs are not deterred from these sugary, sweet drinks. Even in small amounts the consequences of pet alcohol intoxication can be great so keeping a watchful eye is necessary.

Avocado

The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Grapes & Raisins

Although the toxic substance within these fruits is unknown, grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.

Yeast Dough

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake and it is often a better idea to avoid yeast containing items all together, especially if owners are making homemade dog treats and uncooked dough is readily available for consumption.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones

Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract. There are far too many cases of owners giving leftover holiday meal components like turkey or ham and significant illness being caused by the excessive amount of fat in the item or simply by the GI tract working in overdrive to digest boney material. Left-overs might seem like an inexpensive treat for our pets but they can have very expensive consequences.

Xylitol

Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels) and this can be life threatening. Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days and this is one of the few items on this list that owners oftentimes have not realized has the potential for life threatening toxicity. Gum and mints are especially problematic as owners regularly have those items available in purses, bags, or in decorative bowls for the holidays.

Onions, Garlic, Chives

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.

Milk

Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

Salt

Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. In other words, keep those salty chips to yourself!

What to Do if Your Pet Gets Food Poisoning

Because these foods tend to be so prevalent over the holiday season it is a good idea to always keep an eye on your pup. Dogs have an uncanny ability to get themselves into trouble when they’re stressed or their owners are distracted, and the holidays provide the perfect opportunity for them to sneak a treat off the counter or an unattended plate. But they’re not always to blame … please make your guests aware that they should never feed your dog!

Do your best to keep your pets safe from toxic holiday treats this season, but please contact us right away if you suspect they’ve eating something bad for them!

Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?

Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?

This is one of the more complicated, but commonly discussed subjects that comes up during routine checkups. With a quick Google search, you can find a variety of answers that range from fairly straight forward explanations to complex, philosophical debates about the natural evolution of dogs and their digestive tracts. However, it is likely just as fair to say that dogs eat grass simply because they like the flavor or texture as it is to say that there is something in their omnivorous DNA that maintains a behavior. Researchers have even tried to investigate whether grass consumption follows behavior of gastrointestinal upset or whether it is the source of those symptoms. Regardless of where the true answer lies, we recommend that clients aim to limit and prevent the behavior altogether.

What are the Risks of Eating Grass?

We find that cause and effect arguments or categorizing behaviors as “good” or “bad” often helps clients to be more receptive to our recommendations, but this behavior is less about what immediate problems are occurring and more about what the behavior puts your dog (or cat) at risk for. Although eating grass rarely causes any significant issues other than vomiting and diarrhea (and the unfortunate clean-up that accompanies those), we try our best to advise clients that eating grass adds very little positive value to their pets’ overall health. That is to say, very little nutritional needs are met by eating grass that would not already be provided for by their diet.

puppy eating grass

Can Eating Grass Make My Dog Sick?

If this sort of behavior becomes a regular habit it increases the likelihood of several problems that almost always cost money and increase a client’s frustration given how easy it is to avoid the problem to begin with. Dogs that are prone to eating items outside rarely just eat grass. More often than not they will consume wood chips, acorns, sticks and other outdoor debris. Beyond the obvious risk of an internal obstruction, the most common problem has to do with the parasites that animals are exposed to while eating grass. Dogs are typically on heartworm prevention that covers roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm infections. These medications do a good job at preventing significant infections, but sometimes doses are missed and sometimes patients are habitual offenders.

While a dog or cat eating grass is not a cause for panic, it is something that we encourage owners to try and decrease so that other indirect issues do not occur. It serves as an important reminder that there is little value in this behavior and more opportunities to be aware of parasite prevention and avoiding what oftentimes goes from a medical issue to a surgical one.

Be Well.

Dr. Jablonski and the CCVC Team

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