Weird Worms

August 21, 2014

Practicing in an urban setting, we don’t see too many pets with worms, partly because the city lifestyle reduces exposure to fleas and vermin which transmit worms and partly because I follow the Companion Animal Parasite Council and recommend year round heartworm prevention. Those medications control many common intestinal parasites. Here is information about some of the less common worms veterinarians see in pets.

Tapeworms

Tapeworm segments on a dog's bedding

Tapeworm segments on a dog’s bedding

The photograph on the right came in with one of my patients the other day. The owner was concerned about the rice grains she was seeing on the dog’s bedding and was worried her dog was not digesting the rice in the lamb and rice dog food. What she thought were rice grains were actually tapeworm segments. Dogs become infected with tapeworms when they ingest a flea or eat a small mammal containing tapeworm eggs. Inside the dog’s intestine, a tapeworm consists of hundreds of little segments which are connected to form a worm. Segments break off and can be found moving around near the anus or on your dog’s bedding. Safe dewormers are available to eradicate tapeworms from your dog, but protecting your dog against fleas and limiting their access to vermin will also prevent them from acquiring tapeworms.

Raccoon Roundworms
Even though NYC is urban, we have lots of raccoons. I saw three youngsters washing their hands in a Central Park pond about two weeks ago. Raccoons carry a roundworm in their intestine (Baylisascaris procyonis) and shed roundworm eggs in their feces. Raccoon roundworm eggs are very hardy and remain infective in the soil for years after being shed in the stool. 

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene advises New Yorkers to avoid raccoon latrines (the area where raccoons repeatedly defecate) and to wash their hands if they come in contact with raccoon feces. Children are especially susceptible to infections with the raccoon roundworm. 

Tracheal Worms
Most pet owners think of worms as living in the intestine, but there are worms that live in other organs as well. Dogs can be infected with two different species of tracheal worms, Crenosoma vulpis and Filaroides osleri. F. osleri induces the formation of wart-like lesions in the trachea and bronchi of infected dogs, causing a hard, dry cough. Dr. Kelly Gisselman, an AMC trained ACVIM certified small animal internal medicine specialist, recently posted a YouTube video of a worm she spied while performing a bronchoscopy on a young dog with a cough. Deworming completely resolved the cough which had been going on for a year and a half! Since the worm did not induce the formation of wart-like lesions, we suspect it is C. vulpis

Protecting Your Pets and Your Family Against Weird Worms

  • Check out the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s website for more information on pet parasites.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after being outdoors and before eating.
  • Administer year round monthly heartworm prevention. Those effective against dog roundworms will also treat raccoon roundworms.
  • Use medications to prevent fleas which carry the infective form of the tapeworm.
  • Clean up raccoon feces on your property, but wear gloves and wash your hands after doing so.
  • Put trash in tightly covered containers and don’t put food out for wildlife that may carry weird worms.

Winterizing Your Pet: Cold Weather Tips for Your Dog and Cat

January 12, 2012

Cold weather presents a number of hazards for your pet. Some are related to cold weather and some to the escape to warmer climates from colder ones. If you are a SiriusXM subscriber, these comments are taken from my December 30 interview on Samantha Heller’s Diet and Exercise program on “Dr. Radio,” powered by the NYU Langone Medical Center on Channel 81.

Be anti-antifreeze
Winter brings with it the need for certain products to help us continue our day-to-day lives in the cold. Often, these same products pose a danger to our pets. Automotive anti-freeze, for example, contains ethylene glycol which is a potent toxin to the kidneys. It is not the same as propylene glycol, which is a safe compound found in many household products. If your pet even licks a bit of the yellow-green antifreeze from the ground, head straight to your veterinarian’s office for treatment. Pets can be saved if treated early.

Salt safety
Rock salt is another winter hazard, especially for city dogs walked on salt-treated sidewalks. The salt dries and cracks the paw pads. There are several options to prevent this problem. The simplest way is to wash your dog’s feet when she comes in after a walk. Boots are another solution, but not all dogs find boots fashionable. Finally, musher’s wax can be applied to form a protective barrier between the elements and your dog’s pmusher’s wax, companion animal parasite council, dogaws.

Avoid heat hazards
Everyone is looking to warm up during the cold winter months. Heaters, heat lamps and warm car engines are appealing to pets feeling the chill, but can result in injury. A fluffy tail might easily ignite if it brushes against a space heater. Heat lamps can cause a serious thermal burn and should never be directly aimed at a pet. A snug, warm dog house will be a much safer way to keep your dog warm outside. Cats find a nice warm car engine a cozy place for the night, but when the engine is started up the next morning, they can sustain severe trauma. On cold mornings, bang on the hood with your fist before starting the car to wake any sleeping cats to alert them before the engine turns over.

Snowbird suggestions
Over the past few weeks, a number of my patients have departed for Florida or other warm-weather states. Taking your pet on a winter holiday involves some advance planning. The Companion Animal Parasite Council, a body of experts who make recommendations to veterinarians on parasite prevention, recommend year-round preventative medications for fleas, ticks and heartworms. The southern United States are a hotbed for parasites and a vacation puts your pet at risk for acquiring one or more of the parasite-borne diseases. If for some reason you have discontinued these medications in your pet or have forgotten to give them recently, check with your veterinarian about restarting them before you head south. Every winter I see dogs and cats coming home from Florida scratching and itching from southern fleas.

Some sort of travel will be required to get to a warmer climate. If you and your pet are traveling by airplane, check the airline’s website for pet travel requirements and be sure your pet’s vaccinations meet the airline’s rules. If you and your pet are driving, visit DogFriendly.com for dog- and cat-friendly hotels on your route.

No matter how you travel, be sure your pet has both a collar with an ID tag and a microchip in case your pet escapes.

For more cat and dog travel hints, click here.

Do you have a question for Dr. Hohenhaus? Leave it in the comments section below.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Dogs and Cats as Diana and Orion, the Hunters

July 13, 2011

Photo: Hemera

Pet owners believe their well-fed, or more likely overfed, dog or cat should have no reason to hunt, but lately it seems my patients are on a hunting spree.

Most cat owners who allow their cats outside, become accustomed to freshly killed gifts of mice and other small rodents carefully placed as an offering on the back stoop. But this week the take has been much more substantial.

Take Francie, for example, a special needs Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on anti-seizure medication. Twice last week she captured an unidentifiable furry creature and dragged it in through the doggie door. One unfortunate victim was hauled into Francie’s crate and the other left with pride in the middle of the kitchen floor. Franice’s family was outwardly distressed over her behavior, but the diminutive “Diana” seemed pleased with her hunting success.

Dixie and Mabel, a pair of Labradors, have not been hunting because they are, of course retrievers! To their owners’ initial horror, they were about to retrieve what appeared to be a dead possum, when the possum stopped “playing possum” and safely scampered back into the woods.

The Orion of the group is Willie, a handsome black Standard Poodle. He was out romping in his yard when a fawn strolled by. He tackled the fawn and was immediately tackled by his owners, who saved the fawn and had it safely transferred to the care of a wildlife rehabilitator.

I can share all these stories with you because the pet owners called me; not to brag, but out of concern for their pet’s health. Most were concerned about the potential for rabies transmission from wildlife. This is a real concern for pet owners and just one very good reason for having your pet vaccinated for rabies. Rabies vaccines are very effective and rabies is very uncommon in vaccinated dogs and cats.

Another concern is for parasite which can be carried by wildlife and transmitted to your dog or cat. The Dianas and Orions need annual fecal examinations and routine year round parasite prevention as recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

These pet owners also called wondering how to handle injured wildlife. First, you should not attempt to touch or move injured wildlife as you may be bitten. In New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation licenses wildlife rehabilitators who can provide assistance and care for injured wildlife. There is also a FAQ page with great information about wildlife in your yard.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Heartworm Prevention

March 24, 2011

Are heartworms becoming resistant to preventive medications?

This week marks the first day of spring and for many dogs and cats, spring means a trip to the veterinarian’s office for a heartworm test and renewal of a prescription for heartworm prevention.

To help me address the timely topic of “heartworm disease,” I invited a recognized expert, Dr. Clarke Atkins, to provide some insight.

Q: Do dogs really need an annual test — and should dog owners stop giving the preventative medication when winter comes?

A: Year-around preventive and yearly testing are solidly recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) and the American Heartworm Society for these important reasons:

  1. Heartworm infections are actually greater than 10 years ago, making annual testing critical for your dog.
  2. Year-around preventive provides a safety net of prevention for your dog.
  3. Current heartworm preventives provide protection against other year round pests.
  4. Starting and stopping preventive administration has the potential to lead to lapses in preventive therapy.
  5. People in the metro New York area — those who either vacation at or have homes in “heartworm-endemic areas” — may be at risk year round.
  6. Financial savings are modest and very small compared to the cost of treating a heartworm infection.

Q: Some dog owners are worried about overmedicating their dogs and give the heartworm medication every other month. Do you advise this protocol?

A: The practice of every other month administration of preventive is frankly a terrible idea. Lapses of greater than 45 days between treatments can result in heartworm infection.

Q: Are cats susceptible to heartworms and should they be on preventative medications like dogs?

A: Cats are susceptible to heartworm infection, although less so than dogs, and there is no practical and safe treatment for this life-threatening disease in cats. In any region in which heartworm preventive is used in dogs, cats absolutely should be on heartworm preventive, even if they are housed indoors. Interestingly, in a study we carried out several years ago, the exposure rate to heartworms in cats in NYC was 5% and on Long Island was 9%.

Q: I’ve heard heartworms are becoming resistant to medication. What should a dog owner do?

A: In certain areas of the southern U.S. — specifically Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi — there are concerns with increasing reports of “lack of effectiveness” from medications, and there is some evidence to suggest that some heartworm preventives are not perfect against all strains of heartworm.

Pet owners should talk with their veterinarian if they have any concerns in this regard. However, the most important thing is that all pets receive heartworm preventive medications.

My thanks to Dr. Clarke Atkins, Diplomate, ACVIM (Internal Medicine and Cardiology) and the Jane Lewis Seaks Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University, for his time and response to important questions about heartworm disease.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council tracks parasitic diseases in dogs and cats–including heartworms. The map below is courtesy of CAPC:

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This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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