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Heartworm Awareness Month

How to Avoid Heartworms in Dogs

Springtime in the Greater Phoenix area brings mosquitoes, and with them comes an increased risk for heartworms, a serious parasitic disease that’s found primarily in dogs and cats. According to the National Heartworm Society, at least 22 different species of mosquitoes can carry heartworm larvae, and more than 100,000 dogs contract heartworms each year.

Remember, these are actual worms. Heartworms can live directly within the infected animal’s heart or the neighboring large blood vessels for years. In severe cases, up to several hundred worms could be present, and each can grow up to a foot-long. As heartworm disease advances, it can result in a myriad of health complications including severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs. It can even be fatal. That’s why prevention is critical to pets that may be at risk.

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs

In the early stages of heartworm disease, many dogs will show few symptoms or worse, no symptoms at all. The longer the infection is present, the more likely symptoms will develop. It’s important to get your dog tested, and onto a course of preventive treatment if your vet recommends it.

Signs of heartworm disease may include:

  • Mild persistent cough
  • Lethargy/avoids exertion
  • Fatigue after moderate activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Cats

The signs of heartworm disease in cats can be very subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms may include:

  • Coughing or asthma-like attacks
  • Periodic vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss

Heartworm Preventative Comparison

It’s estimated that more than 1 million dogs are heartworm positive nationwide. Since prevention is the only way to protect your pet, it’s a simple matter of consulting your vet about an oral, topical, or injectable preventative medication at your next veterinary appointment. While heartworm medications don’t prevent infection from occurring, they do kill any existing heartworm larvae that were transmitted since the last monthly treatment, so they don’t have the chance to cause health problems.

An annual blood test and preventative oral, topical, or injectable medication are the best weapon against heartworms. The combination of an annual test along with a scheduled dose of monthly heartworm preventative at home (or an injectable preventative at your wellness appointment) is the most effective way to help protect your pet from this disease.

Heartworm Prevalence By Zip Code

Can your zip code make a difference in the level of risk for heartworms? Generally, yes, but the parameters are usually a bit broader. Due to local climate and rainfall, some areas of the country have mosquitoes all year round, so the risk for dogs to contract heartworms is definitely higher than for dogs in hotter, drier areas of the Southwest. While heartworms can be contracted any time of year, the risk for dogs in the Phoenix area is dramatically elevated in the weeks and months following rainfall (spring/fall) or monsoon storms (late summer), when mosquitoes tend to thrive.

Heartworm Cases in Arizona

While Arizona has seen an uptick in heartworm cases in recent years, it’s largely due to neglecting preventive measures as well as an increase in mosquitoes. While inside Maricopa County risk for heartworm remains moderate, a trip to Sedona, Flagstaff, or even another state can put your pets at risk. Ask your vet about establishing your pet on a heartworm preventative program.

Treatment of Heartworm Disease

Prevention, prevention, prevention. Effective treatments for heartworms in dogs do exist, but they are expensive and painful for your beloved pet to undergo. There is no treatment for heartworms in cats. Ask your veterinarian about a suitable heartworm prevention treatment program.

Thinking about traveling with your pet? The Pet Disease Alert Tracker can be helpful for pet owners who want to take precautions before traveling or to manage risk factors for pets with health conditions.

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

Polyuria and Polydipsia in Cats

How to Treat Polyuria and Polydipsia in Cats

As various factors change in a cat’s life, it’s common to see water intake and urination levels fluctuate to suit their current needs and environmental conditions. However, if you notice your furry friend drinking a lot more water or urinating more frequently, this could be a sign of an underlying health condition.

If your cat is making more frequent trips to the litter box or cleaning out its water bowl quicker than usual, these could be signs of polyuria or polydipsia. While polyuria and polydipsia themselves are not typically an immediate cause for concern, understanding these conditions and their causes are important in helping you determine if a visit to the vet is in order.

What is Polyuria and Polydipsia in Cats?

Polydipsia refers to a sharp increase in thirst levels. Polyuria is an increase in urination. While it can be challenging to identify polyuria or polydipsia in cats, the best way to recognize potential problems is to monitor your feline friend closely. Start by measuring the water that you pour into your cat’s bowl in the morning. On average, a healthy cat will take in roughly 20 to 40 milliliters of water per pound per day. By measuring your cat’s water supply at the start and end of each day, you can determine whether or not your furry friend is experiencing polydipsia.

One way to help identify polyuria in your cat is to observe the amount of wet litter inside of your cat’s litter box each day. In many cases, the cat might be experiencing an increase in urine volume caused by polyuria, and might also urinate outside the litter box. If you’re noticing more wet litter or an uncharacteristic change in your pet’s potty habits, it’s time to make a vet appointment right away.

Causes of Polyuria and Polydipsia in Cats

Many factors can lead to polyuria and polydipsia in cats. However, the primary causes include congenital abnormalities, specifically those related to renal failure. Additional causes of polyuria and polydipsia in cats include:

● Diabetes
● Kidney failure
● Uterine infection
● Liver disease
● Low protein diets
● Age

How to Treat Polyuria and Polydipsia in Cats

Treating polyuria and polydipsia in cats depends on a case-by-case basis, and is determined by the severity of the situation. The primary concern is that renal or hepatic failure could be the leading cause of polyuria or polydipsia. However, if both have been ruled out as possible causes, no treatment or significant life adjustment will likely be required for your furry friend.

By themselves, polyuria and polydipsia are not necessarily an initial cause for concern. However, if symptoms continue and are combined with other behavioral changes, make an appointment to have your cat evaluated by a veterinary professional right away.

Need a good vet? Visit AZPetVet.com/locations to find one near you!

[Disclaimer]
Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

Hyperadrenocorticism AKA Cushing’s Disease

Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s disease, occurs when the adrenal glands become overstimulated and produce too much cortisol, more commonly known as the stress hormone. At normal levels, the hormone cortisol helps regulate the immune system, body weight, skin, tissue, and stress. Too much cortisol can weaken the immune system and lead to many health problems.

As an endocrine system disorder, Cushing’s disease occurs in people and other species. While it’s one of the most common endocrine disorders in dogs, it’s relatively rare in cats. Learn about the causes, the symptoms, and treatment for Cushing’s disease in dogs.

Causes of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease generally affects middle-aged to older animals. The disease develops when a dog’s adrenal glands begin to overproduce the hormone cortisol. The majority of dogs diagnosed with Cushing’s disease (around 80-90 percent) will have a benign (noncancerous) tumor in their pituitary gland causing the disease, known as Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease. Most of the remaining Cushing’s cases in dogs will be Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease, which is caused by a tumor on one of the adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys. Although Cushing’s syndrome can take on multiple forms, what they each have in common is the overproduction of cortisol. No matter the cause, the adrenal glands become enlarged, which makes sense since they’re getting quite a workout!

In rare cases, iatrogenic Cushing’s disease can be caused by long-term use or high doses of steroids like prednisone, cortisone or other medications for allergies, autoimmune disorders, and inflammation in the joints or body. This form of Cushing’s disease can develop in dogs at any age.

Many other health conditions have symptoms that are similar to those of Cushing’s disease in dogs. That’s why it’s important for your dog to have regular wellness exams, along with any lab work and screenings recommended by your vet.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease shares many of the same symptoms associated with a large number of other health conditions, so it’s best to make an appointment to see your veterinarian for further examination. In order to reach a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease, the vet will need to perform several diagnostic tests.

Common symptoms associated with Cushing’s disease in dogs may include:

  • Increased thirst (polydipsia) and urination (polyuria)
  • Frequent accidents or need to urinate at night
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased panting
  • Fatty pads around the neck and shoulders
  • Pot-belly or distended abdomen
  • Obesity or unexplained weight gain
  • Hair loss along the back and/or tail
  • Lack of energy, generally lethargic
  • Recurring skin or urinary tract infections
  • Muscle weakness
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Thin skin that bruises easily

Treatment of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

In most cases, medications that regulate the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream can help successfully manage Cushing’s disease in dogs for years to come. In others, surgery may be required. In rare cases, it can be fatal. Since there is no way to prevent Cushing’s disease, establishing a regular veterinary care routine that includes an appropriate blood-screening schedule with your vet is critical. The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance you’ll have a wider, variety of treatment options. Finally, if you have questions about Cushing’s syndrome or your dog’s health, give your vet a call.

[Disclaimer] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

What You Need to Know About Fleas & Ticks

Nothing feels quite as good as scratching an itch, but when the itch keeps itching, it can drive you batty! Just imagine what it’s like for your pet – they rely on you for their needs, so be aware of their scratching – it may be the first sign of a nasty problem – mainly, fleas and/or ticks.

Fleas and ticks are the two most common external parasites found in dogs and cats, and both will cause your pet to scratch themselves more frequently. These nasty little guys survive by feeding on the blood of dogs, cats and sometimes people. Flea and tick bites can lead to health problems including constant itching, hair loss (alopecia), hypersensitivity (allergic reaction), as well as infections and transmission of disease.

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Common Myths About Ticks and Fleas

1/ A flea collar is all you will need to prevent problems. Sorry, no. Most flea and tick collars do not work well, and allergic reactions are common.

2/ Garlic is an effective dietary aid for preventing fleas and ticks. Feeding your pet garlic will not prevent flea and tick infestations anymore than you eating garlic will protect you from vampires. Fleas and ticks will bite anyway because they find you and your pets delicious.

3/ Fleas and ticks are normal parts of life and won’t hurt my pet. This is not true. Ticks can transmit many diseases, including canine ehrlichiosis (tick fever). Severe hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions may develop after even a mild flea infestation. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms to dogs and cats.

What to Do In Case of Flea and Tick Infestation

Step 1: Treat the pet’s environment.
You must kill fleas and ticks where they live when they’re not on your pet. Hire a professional exterminator. Be sure to explain that you have a flea or tick problem and that you have pets.

Step 2: Kill fleas and ticks that are on your pet.
When used as directed, flea and tick control products are safe and effective at preventing re-infestation of your pet. There are several excellent products available for cats and dogs. Ask your vet for a product recommendation that will be suitable for your pet.

Step 3: Prevent re-infection.
Treatment with a product like Frontline Top Spot will kill and repel ticks for one month, and fleas for up to three months. Frontline Top Spot is a topical treatment that can be used on dogs as young as ten weeks of age and cats as young as twelve weeks of age. Pet beds, carpets, blankets and other items must also be sanitized to kill any eggs that may be hiding.

Step 4: Break the reproductive cycle of fleas.
In the past, controlling fleas and ticks has been difficult, however, new products are available which make external parasite control manageable. Your vet can recommend a safe and effective product for your pet.

Remember – fleas and ticks are NOT just summer time problems. While it does get cool enough during the winter to decrease flea and tick activity, it does not get cold enough to kill them. Fleas and ticks can live very happily indoors during the winter months, so be aware and check your pets frequently year round.

How to Prevent Dogs from Getting Ticks and Fleas

Effective Parasite Prevention For Pets

Nothing feels quite as good as scratching an itch, but when the itch keeps itching, it
can drive you batty! Our dogs and cats rely on us to take care of their needs, so it’s
important to be aware of excessive scratching. Fleas and ticks are the two most
common external parasites found in dogs and cats. Both can cause your pet to
scratch themselves more frequently.

Fleas and ticks are nasty little guys that survive by feeding on the blood of dogs, cats,
and sometimes people. They can also lead to health problems and carry disease. For
instance, flea bites can lead to health problems including constant itching (Flea
Allergy Dermatitis), anemia, and tapeworms. Tick bites can cause infections and
transmission of diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
Prevention, prevention, prevention is the key!

Common Methods for Preventing Fleas and Ticks

Flea collars: Wearing a flea collar will be enough to protect your pet, right? Sorry,
not in every case. Flea and tick collars don’t always work, they have to be replaced
regularly, and allergic reactions are more common than you might think. Ask your vet for a preventative recommendation that will be suitable for your pet and lifestyle.

Adding garlic to a pet’s food to prevent fleas and ticks. Not really a great idea.
Garlic belongs to the Allium family (which includes onions, chives, and leeks), so it
can be poisonous to dogs and cats. Fleas and ticks will bite anyway
because it’s what they do. They find you and your pets delicious, so the garlic will just
add flavor. (Just for the record, feeding garlic to your pet will not prevent fleas and
ticks anymore effectively than you eating garlic would serve as protection from
vampires. Plus fleas and ticks are real threats; vampires are imaginary.)

Doing nothing to prevent fleas and ticks. After all, they’re a normal part of a dog’s
life, right? This is also a bad idea. If you’ve ever had a flea infestation in your home,
you’ll understand just how invasive and itchy these tiny critters can be when they’re
making a home around (and on) you and your pets!

Pets can develop severe hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions after even a mild flea
infestation. Trust us, now you’ll be hypersensitive every time you see your pet
scratching themselves. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms to dogs
and cats. Ticks can transmit many diseases, including canine ehrlichiosis (tick fever).
Talk with your vet about creating a parasite prevention treatment plan that’s
suitable for your pet’s needs.

Fleas in Arizona

Fleas and tick populations tend to increase in warm and humid climates. Even in dry climates like Phoenix, fleas and ticks can still pose a threat to your pet, putting them at risk for serious
health concerns. They look for hosts to bite because they need blood to reproduce.
Arizona’s arid desert climate is true for only part of the state. We also have forests
and grasslands, which are ideal breeding grounds for fleas and ticks. With so many
people and pets engaged in weekend trips away and outdoor pursuits like camping,
hiking, and biking, it’s easy for pets (and you) to pick up a few hitchhikers along the
way.
Fleas can be found living in shrubbery or piles of leaves and other debris, but they
also love carpeting, pet bedding, and dark, protected spaces under furniture.
Ask your vet about a parasite prevention program that’s suitable for your pet and lifestyle.

Ticks in Arizona

Ticks tend to live outdoors near the animals they feed on (deer, coyotes, possums,
raccoons, etc) but they’ve been known to hitch a ride on people and pets. If you are
going hiking or camping, pay special attention to ticks by checking
kids, people, and pets throughout your trip!

Checking your pets for ticks: Carefully examine your pet’s ears, groin area, and
spaces between their toes – ticks love to hide in nooks and crannies of the body
while they engorge themselves on the host’s blood. Undiscovered, a tick can feed
for days on its host, increasing the chance of spreading pathogens and disease. In
fact, a female tick will expand up to 10X her original weight.

Creepy crawly tick fact: While most male ticks die after mating, the females die
after laying anywhere between 2000-18000 eggs. That reality is more than enough
reason to establish a regular parasite prevention routine for your pets that allows
them to live a happy and healthy life!

Ask your vet about recommending a parasite prevention routine that’s suitable for
your pet and lifestyle.

*Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or
treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have
regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency,
call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.