What’s On the Mind of Pet Owners?

December 5, 2012

older man with catA recent survey of both pet owners and veterinarians interrogated the pet health issues each group thought were most important. In last week’s post, I discussed the issues from the veterinarian’s point of view. In this blog I will write from the pet owner’s point of view.

Pet owners said they were primarily concerned with vaccinations, fleas and ticks, heartworms, intestinal parasites, and spending money on medications. This list appears to overlap with the veterinary list on the topic of intestinal parasites, and both owners and vets are squarely focused on preventive healthcare; care to keep their favorite furry, feathery, or scaly companion healthy.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations float to the top of most pet owners’ lists because they save pets’ lives. Before vaccinations were available for common diseases like canine distemper and feline panleukopenia, these diseases spread through neighborhoods like wildfire, often resulting in the deaths of many pets. Decreases in the recommended frequency of some vaccines, coupled with the association between injections and tumors, has raised many questions in pet owners’ minds.

Intestinal parasites

Both pet owners and veterinarians agreed intestinal parasite control was an important issue for pets. How could it not be? Intestinal parasites are high in yuck factor, high in pet discomfort, and on the list of diseases people and pets can share.

Fleas and ticks

These critters are very similar to intestinal parasites with regard to yuck factor and pet discomfort. A pet with a flea infestation may mean you also have a house or apartment with a flea infestation since fleas spend more time off your pet than on. Pet owners want to avoid an expensive exterminator bill by preventing fleas on their pet. Pet owners also want to prevent fleas and ticks to protect their pet against diseases like Lyme disease and blood parasites.

Heartworms

Because heartworms are a serious health concern in both dogs and cats, they are an important medical issue for most pet owners. Nearly every state in the United States reports cases of heartworm in resident dogs and cats. This map shows heartworm cases by state.

Year-round heartworm preventative is a “two-fer” since most prevent both heartworms and some intestinal parasites.

Pet medications

Pet owners want the best for their pet. In my mind, the best are veterinary-specific products. I prefer to prescribe medications developed specifically for veterinary patients rather than human or compounded medications. Veterinary-specific medications assure you, the pet owner, the product has been tested in dogs or cats and will be absorbed, metabolized, and effective in your pet. But, because most pets do not have insurance and medications are paid for “out of pocket,” many times pet owners can be surprised at the cost. As a pet owner myself, I believe that these veterinary-specific medications are worth paying for.

After looking carefully at the two lists of pet healthcare issues, one from pet owners and the other from veterinarians, are they really so different? Both groups’ lists really have only one item and it’s the same one: healthy, happy pets.


Occupy Wall Street: Parvovirus Strikes Demonstrating Dogs

December 1, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstration has been front and center in the news over the past six weeks. Until now, the news has been about humans, but recently the dogs of OWS have hit the newswire due to a parvovirus outbreak at the San Francisco encampment.

Parvovirus in Dogs
Parvovirus is a contagious gastrointestinal disease affecting dogs.

Infection can be fatal at worst and cause serious illness at best. Parvovirus is not a subtle disease: it is associated with the most severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting we veterinarians recognize in canine patients. Because the virus attacks rapidly growing cells, the bone marrow cells producing white blood cells are depleted, decreasing the white blood cell count and putting dogs at risk of contracting a serious infection on top of the severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Panleukopenia is the Feline Parvovirus
The dogs of OWS are not the only ones at risk for contracting parvovirus infection. Any dog coming in contact with the feces of a parvovirus infected dog is at risk, unless they are protected by vaccination. Cats have their own version of parvovirus – the panleukopenia virus. Infection by the panleukopenia virus results in similar clinical signs in infected cats as parvovirus infection causes in dogs. Fortunately, panleukopenia rarely occurs in my practice, but the few cases I have seen could not be saved. Vaccination protects against this frequently fatal feline viral infection. Veterinarians consider vaccinations against parvovirus and panleukopenia virus “core” vaccines, meaning these are vaccines nearly all pets should receive.

Close quarters with limited sanitation like OWS are the perfect place for an outbreak of a contagious disease and it would not surprise me to see an outbreak of canine influenza, kennel cough or intestinal parasites at an OWS camp.

Pet Owner Precautions
Pet owners taking their dog or cat to a location where it will come in contact with many other animals should first check with their veterinarian to confirm their pet has been adequately vaccinated. Cats boarding at a kennel for the holidays, dogs attending obedience classes or doggie day care, or any pet demonstrating as part of OWS have an increased risk of contracting an infectious disease simply due to increased exposure to other animals. Pet owners should keep their healthy pets away from other animals with signs of illness such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea to help protect them against contracting a life-threatening illness.

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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.


Parvovirus in Dogs

August 16, 2010

Parvovirus has been in the news recently. In Rhode Island, the state veterinarian alerted dog owners to an increased number of parvovirus cases in the state.

Parvovirus is a serious contagious viral disease of dogs. The virus infects rapidly dividing cells, predominantly those of the gastrointestinal tract and the bone marrow.

Clinical signs of parvovirus infection revolve around the organ systems the virus infects. Most owners will notice signs involving the gastrointestinal tract. Dogs will have severe vomiting and diarrhea leading to dehydration. Blood tests performed by your veterinarian will detect the effects of the virus on your dog’s bone marrow. Parvovirus infection causes a dangerously low white blood cell count and severe infection follows. The vomiting is so severe dogs cannot take anything orally. Treatment requires intravenous fluid therapy to treat dehydration and intravenous antibiotics to treat infection. Other therapies such as antiemetics and intravenous feeding are also often required. Most, but not all dogs recover.

The virus spreads though oronasal contact with viral material contained in the feces of infected dogs. Infected dogs may be contagious for up to 30 days after exposure to the virus. Parvovirus can exist in the environment for months to years but can be inactivated by cleaning with a dilute bleach solution. Animal shelters, municipal pounds, pet shops, boarding kennels and dog runs are likely areas where dogs might acquire infections. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Pit bulls, Labrador retrievers and German shepherds may be particularly at risk for contracting parvovirus infection.

The canine parvovirus was unknown until the 1970’s. Parvovirus evolved from a feline virus known as panleukopenia virus. The feline virus mutated and became infective to dogs, setting off a serious epidemic of canine parvovirus since dogs were naïve to this new virus and nearly every exposed dog contracted the disease. At that time veterinarians could do nothing to prevent the disease.

Today, prevention of parvovirus is simple. Vaccination is very effective in protecting dogs against parvovirus infection. Routine vaccination — called “core” by veterinarians — contains substances to induce immunity to parvovirus. After a puppy series of vaccinations, your veterinarians will determine your dog’s risk of contracting parvovirus infection and the required frequency of revaccination. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, most veterinarians recommend avoiding situations where parvovirus is common.

Just as I finished writing this blog, I received a notice of an outbreak of feline panleukopenia via email. The outbreak is in California and resulted in the deaths of over 100 cats in a shelter.

Because these 2 viruses are very similar, the signs, route of infection and methods of prevention against feline panleukopenia are the same for cats as they are for dogs and parvovirus.

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The Animal Medical Center

For 100 years, 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.


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