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Why Parvo Virus Is Such A Resilient Killer

When I worked at the Humane Society of Jefferson County I was taught to be fanatical about not allowing visitors to touch the dogs, especially new arrivals.  We  earned many annoyed glares from people who could not understand why they couldn’t interact with the cute doggos.  Especially the puppies: who could resist poking your fingers into the crate and allowing them to lick you fingers?

We were frequently told, “I haven’t been around any sick dogs.”  to which a co-worker of mine developed the response, “Have you been to a grocery store or Wal-Mart?  If you pushed a shopping cart in there you may have picked up parvo virus from someone who pushed that cart before you did.  It is that easy to pick it up and bring it in here.  And if you do, that cute puppy could die a horrible death in a couple of days.  So, please, don’t touch the dogs.”  And she was right: it is that easy.

Even though we vaccinated all dogs against parvo, bordatella, and kennel cough upon entry to our facility, it takes 21 days for a vaccine to develop full immunity in its host.  Before then, especially early on, that dog is still susceptible.

Graphic attributed to Canineparvovirus.org.

How Parvo Spreads Infographic

Parvo virus is a contact-spread disease, not air borne, but the virus is so resilient that it can live on surfaces, in dirt or concrete, or in carpeting and upholstery for very long periods.  It can withstand extreme temperatures.  It can be killed, but not by regular household cleaners.  (Cleaners that kill parvo)  And as mentioned above, you don’t have to have direct contact with an infected dog to pick it up and spread it around.

You could step in the feces or vomit of an infected dog and bring it into your home.  Your dog could contract the virus from a public water source shared by other dogs.  An infected dog could rub its nose or drool on a chair.  This may dry, but if you sit on that chair, you could still pick up the virus on the seat of your pants and transfer it to your car, and the furniture in your home.  Keeping the virus out of your home and away from your dog may be impossible.  So the best defense is to vaccinate your dog.

If your dog contracts parvo virus it has a good chance — 80% — of survival if it is caught and treated early.  The common form of parvo is the intestinal form, which is characterized by vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weight loss and lack of appetite (anorexia). (More)  If untreated or let go too long, parvo has a 90% mortality rate.  If you see any of these indications in your dog, see your vet as soon as possible!

And if you go window shopping at a local kennel or shelter, please don’t get grumpy if the staff asks you, “Please don’t touch the dogs.”

Canine Heartworm Disease Cause and Treatment

Originally published on: Apr 25, 2014

The Dogtor is in

Heartworm disease is a serious and eventually fatal condition caused by parasitic nematode (roundworm) living in the arteries of the lungs and the right side of the heart. Dogs are considered the primary host for heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis), however heartworms may infect more than 30 species of animals including coyotes, foxes, wolves and other wild canids, domestic cats and wild felids, ferrets, sea lions, etc. They can infect humans as well, although this is rare. Cases of canine heartworm disease have been reported in all 50 states, but are particularly endemic in the south and east portions of the USA from Texas to North Carolina.

What Causes Heartworm Disease?

mosquitos carry heartworm diseaseHeartworm disease is spread by infected mosquitos. A mosquito takes a blood meal from an infected animal and takes in blood containing the heartworm pre-larvae or microfilariae, pronounced: micro-fil-ar-ee-a. During the next 10 to 14 days, the microfilariae mature to the infective larval stage within the mosquito. These small, hair-like organisms can then be transmitted to other dogs by the same mosquito. It then takes a little over 6 months for the infective larvae to mature into adult heartworms. The mature worms then breed and release more microfilariae which can be transferred to other dogs via new mosquito bites. Those that remain develop, mature, breed and produce more new worms. These adult worms take up residence in the arteries of the heart and lungs, interfering with the operation of heart valves and blood flow through the lungs.

Lyme Disease and Your Dog

Originally published May 2, 2014

The Dogtor is in

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete: a type of bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to dogs by a tick. The most common type of tick to carry Lyme disease is the Deer Tick. Once in the blood stream, the Lyme disease organism is carried to many parts of the body but tends to localize in the joints.

Lyme disease affects both dogs and people, but people cannot get it directly from a dog. The disease is transmitted by ticks, therefore preventing tick bites is important for your health and that of your dog.

Clinical Signs of Lyme Disease

lyme disease rashHumans with Lyme disease develop a characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash around the bite in three to thirty days. This makes the disease easy to diagnose at an early stage. Lyme disease is more difficult to detect in animals. Dogs and cats do not develop this characteristic rash. Other symptoms may be delayed or go unrecognized because the symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases. Lyme disease in animals is often not even considered until other diseases have been eliminated.

Signs of Canine Heart Disease

Written on 04/14/2014 by in Staying Healthy, Vet’s Corner

canine heart diseaseWhen it comes to canine heart disease, early diagnosis and timely treatment can make a crucial difference for your pet. It is necessary for pet parents like you to be familiar with the various signs of canine heart disease. This way you can bring any possible health issue to your vet’s attention as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Heart Problems in Dogs

1. Coughing. This is a very frequent sign of many kinds of illness in dogs, one being canine heart disease. Minor coughs rarely persist for more than three days. If, even after a few days, your pooch still coughs or experiences other unusual symptoms, immediately seek veterinary attention.

Treating Heartworm: Recovery

Originally published May 30, 2014

Boomer in heartworm treatmentBoomer had his Immiticide treatments for his heartworm condition last week and spent several days feeling quite puny. He’s doing better now. He’s got a sparkle in his eye and a bounce in his step again. He’s ready to run and play. So this is an especially dangerous time in his treatment.

He feels better and the heartworms in his system are dead. But when they die the worms can float down-stream in his circulatory system: right into the myriad of vessels and capillaries in his lungs where they lodge and block the blood flow. He needs to be calm until his body can absorb the dead worm tissue.

Getting his heart rate up through running and rambunctious play greatly increases the chances that something in his lung will become clogged and “blow out” (pulmonary embolism) causing bleeding into his lung. This is often fatal.

HeartwormSociety.org puts it this way:

Canine Hypothyroidism Causes and Treatment

Originally published May 18, 2015

Doug on canine hypothyroidism
Doug the Dog Boss

Canine Hypothyroidism is the reduced function (hypo) of the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the neck, on the trachea, and makes a hormone called thyroxine that controls metabolism. When the gland doesn’t make enough thyroxine, the dogs metabolism slows abnormally.

It’s a common disease in dogs that can affect all breeds, but it is most often found in medium to large breeds like Golden Retrievers, Doberman Pinchers, Irish Setters, Dachshunds, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels — and bulldogs. It usually occurs in middle-aged dogs (ages 4 to 10) and neutered males and spayed females are at a higher risk, though experts are not sure why. In most cases hypothyroidism is caused by your dog’s own immune system attacking his thyroid gland!

Canine Pneumonia and Heartworm

Originally published November 18, 2015

Bristol in recovery - canine pneumoniaBristol has canine pneumonia. He started coughing on Sunday, by Monday morning it was a continuous thing if he got active at all. A deep, rattly cough that ended with an ejection of phlegm. No blood (thankfully), so an embolism is not indicated. I contacted our Vet Tech, Alicia.

Because he is ill, Bristol has lost his seat on this weekend’s Rolling Rescue run. Hopefully he will be well again by the Rescue run in two weeks.

Parasitic pneumonia in dogs is often caused by lungworms directly or from the migration of other worms (e.g. heartworms) through the lung. 9 out of every 69 dogs (13%) treated for heartworm also develop pneumonia. At this stage (he’s just finishing his recovery period), I do not think the pneumonia was caused by heartworm migration, because they should all be long dead. However, the dead worm tissue in his lungs may have opened a path for a bacterial infection that resulted in pneumonia. Heart disease or heart failure can lead to pneumonia; perhaps this is aftermath of his heartworm infestation and damage to his heart. The heart damage should heal in time. His lungs may have been irritated by the couple of cold, damp nights we had.

Symptoms of Canine Pneumonia

The hallmark symptom shown by dogs suffering from pneumonia is coughing (although of course not all coughing dogs have pneumonia). In addition, watch out for these symptoms:

Faith Restored

Faith went to Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital yesterday.  The intent was for them to sedate her and do a thorough examination of her teeth and gums to see why they were bleeding a few days ago.

I had gone into her kennel and found blood on the floor and her chew toy was bloody.  I removed the toy and gave her a rope chew instead.  Then I messaged Doctor Sandra.  She said to bring Faith in for an exam.

I was concerned by this development because when I worked at the Humane Society of Jefferson County I’d seen several rescue deals get aborted when it was discovered the dog had bad teeth.  Repairing that is expensive, an expense many rescues are not willing or able to take on.  I feared that if this was the case with Faith, her deal with A.R.N.N.E. would get nixed.

Before she came here, Faith had spent some time at Cedarwood.  Dr. Sandra pulled her from Animal Control out of fear that they were about to euthanize her.  Dr. Sandra asked if I could foster Faith while they looked for an adoptive home.  At that time I was full, but an opening would happen in a few days.  So Faith was boarded at Cedarwood until I had an open kennel.  The Cedarwood staff became fond of Faith during her stay there.

When Faith and I arrived, the office manager had me fill out the standard permissions form that authorized them to do lab work, administer sedation, and perform various (incrementally more expensive) monitoring during “surgery”.  I did not authorize the high end stuff (triple digit expenses) since this was supposed to be a dental exam not major surgery.  Still, the lab work and sedation would run a couple hundred dollars, not counting any work to be done, if it was needed.

I asked that I be called if work needed to be done.  This would be an expense I would have to bear because Animal Control could not and would not, and A.R.N.N.E. would probably either back out of the rescue offer or prefer the work be done by their own vet partner, to control costs.  Then I went home and waited.

At 4:30 I had received no call and decided I’d better go pick her up before they close at 5:00.

Rebecca came out and explained that Faith had allowed them to examine her teeth without being sedated (I’m not sure how they did that since she wouldn’t let me get more than a peek in there – just enough to know she was bleeding) and they found some abrasions that had healed but the teeth and gums are in fine shape.  Even having just a level 2 tartar: which is low, especially for a 6 to 7 year old dog.  They even clipped her nails for me.

That was wonderful news!  I was afraid that bad teeth would kill the interest that A.R.N.N.E. had in her.  Now I can report that her teeth are great!

“How much do I owe you?” I asked, pulling out my wallet.

“Rebecca shrugged, “We didn’t do anything worth charging you for.  Besides, it’s Faith.  We love her.”

I DO love Cedarwood!

So I took her home and updated Christine, my contact at A.R.N.N.E., that everything was fine and we are still on track for a Nov 11th departure.  It’s all good!

Heartworm Treatment Aftermath

Originally published May 10, 2016

The Dogtor is in

How dogs deal with heartworm treatment aftermath varies considerably, depending on several factors.

  • Severity of worm infestation. A low-count infestation will have less effect on the dog as the worms die and potentially cause problems.  A high-count means more dead worm tissue in the blood stream and a higher likelihood that the heart has sustained damage from the worms chewing on it.
  • The dog’s temperament. Dogs, like people, deal with sickness or pain differently: some are wimps and will cry and moan over every little thing, others are stalwart and seemingly ignore discomfort. Most are somewhere in between.
  • How well the treatment went. If a dog jumps or lurches during the injection, it leaves a bruise in the muscle that is very painful – and it requires that the injection be repeated in a slightly different location because the bruise will allow too rapid absorption of the Immiticide. The injection must be done intramuscular to slow the absorption rate.
dolly cochise nursemaid, heartworm treatment aftermath
Dolly was Cochise’s nursemaid during heartworm treatment

Some dogs we’ve cared for were hardly slowed down at all, while others (like Cochise) were hit hard. It took him a week or more to get over the nausea and pain. Most are stiff and sore in their lower back and hips for one to three days, then bounce back quickly.

This is actually more dangerous than one who convalesces for a while because it is vital to keep the dog on crate rest for a minimum of two weeks. High levels of activity cause increased heart rate which causes an increased chance of dead worm matter breaking loose from the heart, lodging in the capillaries of the lungs and causing a lesion or embolism in the lung. This can be fatal. The dog must be given time for his body to absorb the dead tissue before they become active again.

Volt’s Heartworm Treatment Aftermath

Because Volt was underweight, Dr. Conklin decided to use an extended-kill method with him. This takes longer and is more expensive, but is easier on the dog. Volt went in for his final treatments yesterday and today. Yesterday went well and he experienced little discomfort. He felt a little yucky this morning, but that was all. Today (we suspect) did not go so well.

He’s got a visible lump on his back where the injection would have been given, so we suspect he twitched and tore a bruise in the muscle. He’s also quite uncomfortable:

And here we are, out of Tramadol. I gave him a baby aspirin. At 71 pounds, Volt could probably have two, but we’ll try one. Maybe we’ll do two at bed time so he gets a good nights rest. He should feel better in the morning.

A low dose of aspirin is safe for large dogs for short term use (like a day or two) for pain, when advised by your veterinarian. Do not use if the dog is taking Prednisone. Generally, a dog 50 to 100 pounds can have one regular aspirin tablet twice a day — SHORT term. Aspirin causes gastric bleeding if over-used. Baby aspirin is straight aspirin but in a lower (81 mg) dose. Tramadol is a better option, but it requires a prescription and is pricey. Do not use Tylenol.

Tylenol is Acetaminophen. Acetaminophen, which is not an NSAID, is poisonous to dogs. Typical symptoms of pain killer poisoning include difficulty breathing, vomiting (can be a good thing), change in coloration of the gums, jaundice (a sign of liver damage), and a change in body temperature, among others. Do not use Tylenol on your dog!

heartworm treatment aftermathAn hour after I gave Volt the baby aspirin he was able to rest. He was not sleeping, but could lie still and rest without whimpering and shifting around. I tried to make him comfortable in the den with the rest of us, but he preferred to suffer in solitude and went to the bedroom. He did appreciate an occasional belly rub.

After another hour he came and got me to tell me that he needed to go outside. I took him out (without a leash this time: the last thing he wants to do right now is run) and he went as far as the very first patch of grass to take care of all his business. I cleaned up after him (since this was in a major traffic pattern) and he was waiting for me at the back door.

The First Night

When I dish up kibbles, Volt always comes to supervise. At first he was hoping I would drop some (or he could grab some) and I had to close the door to keep him from raiding the kibble buckets as I opened them. When he learned to control himself, I started giving him a kibble or two as a treat for his improved behavior.

That evening, Volt did not come to the door of the Kibble Treasury when I began scooping kibbles into dishes. He was dozing just across the hallway, and that was more important to him than a snack.

As dinner preparation was about concluded and ready to serve, Volt did come out of the den (it did smell good). We decided to try letting him eat on a blanket beside the table like Cochise and Blondie do. Volt has been getting fed in his crate because he will wolf down his own food then try to push Blondie out of her bowl as well. And she is mild tempered enough to let him do it. She will give him a “How rude!” look, but not fight him over it. Tonight, he’s not feeling all that pushy, because of the heartworm treatment aftermath.

He did well. He ate much slower than normal, then went and sat behind my chair and waited. When Blondie and Cochise finished their dinners, all three wandered off to lie down and let the meal settle.

I woke him from his nap to take him outside so he would sleep through the night. He wasn’t thrilled with that, but he complied, squatting like a girl-dog because raising a leg hurt too much.

When bed time arrived, Volt was crashed in the den. I asked him if he wanted to join us in the bedroom, but the only response I got was a brief, groggy, one-eyed, glance.

Normally we insist on it because it’s easier to track his whereabouts. He has tried at least one Midnight Caper while we slept. But I didn’t think he’d be up to any mischief this time.

Nurse Blondie monitors Heartworm treatment aftermathVolt woke Marie at 12:30 am when he got up to wander restlessly. He was in pain again. Marie gave him another baby aspirin and he settled into his bed in the bedroom. Blondie moved from her bed to the floor next to him to be nursemaid. She stayed there all night.

At 6:00 most of us got up again. Volt seemed comatose – and caused me some concern – but it turned out he was just unwilling to leave the Nirvana of slumber. We can all understand that!

Dealing well with heartworm treatment aftermathCochise stood in for Volt as kibble inspector when I dished up doggie breakfast. Once I got the bacon and eggs going, Volt was up and sitting in the living room watching. He was more animated this morning. Enough so that he was served breakfast in his crate again.

After breakfast we went outside and he again squatted to pee. Then he settled in with us in the den and went to sleep. He is still sore, but not so sore as to need pain meds to sleep. That’s good. He’s bouncing back already. I’ll let him sleep as much as he wants, that’s the best way to heal.

The Outlook

Volt is a laid-back hound dog. Keeping him calm for the next few weeks will not be the challenge that it is in a high-energy dog. Still, I’ll use a leash to take him out for potty breaks, once he’s not suffering so.

Once he’s feeling better, we will have to take him on another trip to Tractor Supply just to be sure he does not come to associate truck rides with bad things happening to him.

Volt is a sweet, good-natured dog, he will be fine. It’s just going to take a few days to get past the rough part of heartworm treatment aftermath.


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The Nose Knows Fear and Stress

Originally published Feb 8, 2017

This nose knows

Below is an excerpt from an article by Jaymi Heimbuch on Mother Nature Network. In it Ms. Heimbuch discusses how the sensitivity of canine noses is being used to screen human patients for a variety of medical problems including cancer, hypoglycemia, narcolepsy, seizure, and others. Today we want to focus on the part that discusses how service dogs are used in preventing P.T.S.D. attacks by sensing building fear and stress levels.