Demodex – Mange in Dogs

Mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by microscopic mites. Two different mange mites cause skin disease in dogs. One lives just under the surface of the skin, while the other resides deep in the hair follicles. Although both mites share similar characteristics, there are also important differences. It is important not to confuse the two types of mange because they have different causes, treatments, and prognoses.

What causes demodectic mange?

Demodectic mange, sometimes just called “demodex” or “red mange”, is the most common form of mange in dogs. It is caused by the Demodex canis, a parasite that lives in the hair follicles of dogs. Under the microscope, this mite is shaped like a cigar with eight legs.
demodectic mange 2009 Demodex Mange

All normal dogs (and many humans) have a few of these mites on their skin. As long as the body’s immune system is functioning properly, these mites live in harmony with their host and  cause no harm.

Demodectic mange most often occurs when a dog has an immature immune or a defective immune system which will allow the number of skin mites to grow rapidly. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to the disease and there may be a genetic factor for the prevalence of Demodectic mange. Because of this, the disease is found primarily in young dogs less than twelve to eighteen months of age and dogs with severe mange should not be bred. As the dog matures, its immune system also matures. Adult dogs that have the disease usually have defective immune systems. Demodectic mange may occur in older dogs because function of the immune system often declines with age. Dogs who have immune suppression due to illness or certain medications are also candidates for demodectic mange.

Is demodectic mange contagious?

No, demodectic mange is not contagious to other animals or humans. Demodex mites are transmitted to puppies from their mother during the first few days of life. Since the mite is found on virtually all dogs, exposure of a normal dog to one with demodectic mange is not dangerous.
demodectic mange 2009 2 Demodex Mange
Why doesn’t the immune system mature correctly in some dogs?

Development of the immune system is under genetic or hereditary control. Thus, an affected dog often has littermates that are also affected. Owners of littermates should be alerted to watch for the development of the mange in their puppies. Because the disease can be due to a genetic defect of the immune system, affected dogs should not be bred, and the parents of the
affected dog should not be bred again.

What does demodectic mange do to the dog?

Surprisingly, a dog with demodectic mange usually does not itch severely, even though it loses hair in patches. The hair loss usually begins on the face, especially around the eyes. When there are only a few patches of hair loss, the condition is called localized demodectic mange. If the disease spreads to many areas of the skin, it becomes generalized demodectic mange. The mites multiply in the hair follicle which causes the hair to fall out. When the integrity of the skin is broken, then bacteria that normally resides on the skin can penetrate the broken skin and cause a secondary skin infection or a “pyoderma” . Because the immune system in these dogs in often defective, the skin infection can sometimes become severe.

How is demodectic mange diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will take deep skin scrapings and try to squeeze the mites out of the hair follicles and examine them under the microscope to diagnose this disease. The finding of larger than normal numbers of Demodex mites in skin scrapings confirms the diagnosis. Occasionally, the disease will be diagnosed by means of a
skin biopsy in dogs that have chronic skin infections that have not responded appropriately to treatment.
demodex
What is the treatment for Demodectic mange?

The localized form is usually treated with topical medication. The generalized form requires more aggressive treatment using special follicular flushing medicated shampoos and dips, along with oral medication. Shampooing with special
cleansing shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide helps to flush out and open the hair follicles prior to dipping. In some cases, especially dogs with generalized demodectic mange, secondary skin infections complicate the condition, requiring antibiotic therapy. Dogs with skin infections often have very red, inflamed skin. This is the source of the
term “red mange.”

Are there any problems with topical treatment?

The dip commonly used for demodectic mange contains the insecticide amitraz. It must be used cautiously because it is a strong insecticide that can cause side effects, both to your dog and to you, if not used properly. Your dog may experience vomiting and sedation for twenty-four to thirty-six hours following each application. Most of these problems are self-limiting and resolve without medical intervention. If your dog reacts in this manner, you should dilute the next dip with 25% more water. Since most dogs develop tolerance to the dip as they are repeated, your dog is less likely to have side effects with each subsequent treatment. After receiving two to three dipping treatments at 2 week intervals, skin scrapings should be repeated and
examined for the presence of live mites or mite eggs. The results of these skin scrapings will determine whether further treatment is needed. Often a minimum of 6 to 8 dips is necessary to control the disease.

Is there a drug that can be given orally for demodectic mange?

Yes, under certain conditions.

Ivermectins are a class of drugs that are approved for prevention of heartworm disease in dogs and cats. Milbemycin oxime, the active ingredient of Interceptor® and Sentinel® heartworm preventives,
may be used to treat demodicosis in certain cases. Certain   ivermectins are used to treat parasites on cattle. In the past, the cattle preparation has been used orally for demodectic mange in some dogs. However, it is a very strong drug that can cause severe side-effects, including death, if it is not administered properly. It is not approved for use in dogs, so we would only consider using it as long as you are  willing to accept liability for adverse effects. Veterinarians do not generally recommend ivermectin usage in collies, Shetland sheepdogs, Australian shepherds, old English sheepdogs, or any other herding breed.

Check with your veterinarian for the recommended medicine to treat your dog.

What is the prognosis for my dog?

Treatment of demodectic mange is generally successful. However, if the immune system is defective, neither the mites nor the infection may respond to treatment. With generalized demodicosis, successful treatment may take a long time and re-occurrences can develop later in life or with stress.

Because the immune system does not mature until twelve to eighteen months of age, a dog with demodectic mange may have relapses until that age. It is important to treat as soon as a relapse occurs to minimize the possibility of developing resistant mange.

 

 

 

 

Whipworms

What are whipworms?

Whipworms are intestinal parasites that are about 1/4 inch (6 mm) long. They live in the cecum and colon (large intestine) of dogs where they cause severe irritation to the lining of those organs. Whipworm infection results in watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and general debilitation.

 

They are one of the most pathogenic worms found in dogs.

whipworm infections 1 2009 Whipworms

How do dogs get whipworms?

Whipworms pass microscopic eggs in the stool. The eggs are very resistant to drying and heat, so they can remain viable (alive) in the  environment for up to 5 years. Once laid, they embryonate (mature to an infective stage) in the environment and are able to re-infect the dog in 10-60 days. The   embryonated eggs are swallowed and hatch and mature to adults in the lower intestinal tract, completing their life cycle (see illustration).

How are whipworms  diagnosed?

“Parasites pass small numbers of eggs on an irregular basis, so some samples may be falsely negative.”

Whipworms are diagnosed by finding eggs with a microscopic examination of the stool. However, multiple stool samples are often required because these parasites pass small numbers of eggs on an irregular basis, so some samples may be falsely negative. In addition, it takes approximately 11-12 weeks after hatching for a female adult to begin to lay eggs.  Any dog with chronic large bowel diarrhea should be suspected to have whipworms, even if the stool sample was negative.
Thus, it is an accepted practice to treat chronic diarrhea by administering a whipworm dewormer. Response to treatment is an indication that whipworms were present but could not be detected on fecal examination.

whipworm infections 2 2009 Whipworms

How are whipworms treated?

There are several drugs that are very effective against whipworms. At least two treatments are needed, spaced at a three to four week interval. The most frustrating aspect of whipworm infections is the high rate of re-infection because the eggs are extremely hardy in the environment.  Therefore, if a dog is diagnosed with a whipworm infection, it is advisable to treat again every three to four months. The other option, which is much simpler, is to use a heartworm preventative that contains a whipworm medication. Whipworms are not nearly as common today because of widespread use of these modern heartworm prevention products.

Can I get whipworms from my dog?

No. Whipworms are not infectious to people. They are exclusive parasites of the dog.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Giardia

Giardiasis is an intestinal infection of both man and animals caused by a single cell, flagellated protozoan parasite Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia).
Giardia is composed of just one cell and it is not a bacteria, virus or a “worm”. This parasite is found worldwide and is a common cause of
“Traveler’s Fever”. Other names are “Montezuma’s Revenge”, “Rocky Mountain Hershey Squirts”, and “Beaver Fever”. Well, you get the idea. The parasite is found in contaminated water and if not properly treated can cause a diarrhea in people as well as our four legged friends.  A lot of dogs can be infected without displaying any signs of illness.
The Giarida life cycle consists of two phases. The delicate feeding form is a single cell with flagella, (the string like tentacles that make it mobile) and it lives in the gut of the infected animal. The cystic form is hardier and is shed in the feces of the animal and can survive several months in the environment, especially in water and damp areas.
Your canine friend can be infected  when it swallows the giardia cyst in contaminated water. The cyst then passes into the dog’s intestine where it develops into the trophozoite or the feeding form. It then attaches to the intestinal wall and begins to feed. If the giardia population is large enough, then there is enough damage to cause the clinical signs of diarrhea, which can be fatal in small puppies. The organism then becomes the cystic form which is passed in the feces and can re-infect the dog, or be picked up by other dogs or even people.
Giardia can be diagnosed with a special fecal floatation test or a direct smear but is often missed becgiardia_2009ause of its small size and inconsistent shedding. If Giardia is suspected, a .snap test can be performed on the feces to detect specific cell antigens to the organism. It is more expensive than the standard fecal tests, but is more accurate. Often times, a presumptive diagnosis is made with the clinical signs and the dog is treated without a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment for giardia consists of a round of antibiotics, such as metronidazole, for 5 – 7 days. Other parasiticides, such as fenbendazole, are often administered in addition to the antibiotics. If the diarrhea is severe, other medications to soothe the intestinal tract and even IV replacement fluids may be necessary.
Because of the potential exposure to the human members of the family, if your dog is diagnosed with giardiasis, disinfection of the area and good personal hygiene is important. Particularly, people that are immune compromised, such as AIDS or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, should use extra care when handling feces or giving medications.
giardia
To disinfect the pet’s area, diluted bleach (1 part bleach mixed with 32 parts water) can be used and other surfaces can be sprayed with Lysol. The cysts are also susceptible to drying so avoid over-watering the backyard so it can dry out. Wash the pet’s bedding with some bleach added to the water and then toss them into the dryer on hot setting should kill the majority of the cysts.
The best way to avoid infestation of your pet is to avoid areas where other dogs and wildlife aggregate. Bring your pet’s own water with you when you do go on excursions so they will not be tempted to drink from steams or standing pools of water. If you take your dog camping or swimming and they do break with diarrhea when they return, alert your veterinarian to the possibility of contamination so treatment can be started right away.
There was a giardia vaccine available called GIARDIAVAX, however, it was not a preventative. At best it may have reduced the shedding of cysts if a dog was infected. It has been removed from the market due to lack of sales.under license.

What are Coccidia?

coccidiosis

What is coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by one-celled organisms (protozoa) called coccidia. Coccidia are sub-classified into a number of genera, and each genus has a number of species.

“At least six different genera of coccidia can infect dogs.”

At least six different genera of coccidia can infect dogs. These microscopic parasites spend part of their life cycle in the lining cells of the intestine. Most infections are not associated with any detectable clinical signs. These  infections are called sub-clinical infections. The species Isospora canis  causes most clinical infections in dogs. Cryptosporidium parvum is another coccidian parasite that may cause diarrhea in some puppies.

 

canine coccidiosis   2009 Coccidia

How did my dog become infected with coccidia?

An infected dog passes oocysts (immature coccidia) in the feces. These oocysts are very resistant to a wide variety of environmental conditions and can survive for some time on the ground. Under the right conditions of temperature and humidity, these oocysts “sporulate” or become infective. If a susceptible dog ingests the sporulated oocysts, the oocysts will release  “sporozoites” that invade the intestinal lining cells and set up a cycle of infection in neighboring cells. Dogs may also be indirectly infected by eating a mouse that is infected with coccidia.

What kinds of problems are caused by coccidiosis?

Most dogs that are infected with coccidia do not have diarrhea or other clinical signs. When the coccidial oocysts are found in the stool of a dog without diarrhea, they are generally considered a transient, insignificant finding.

“In puppies and debilitated adult dogs, coccidiosis may cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting.”

However, in puppies and debilitated adult dogs, coccidiosis may cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting. In severe  cases, death may occur.

How is coccidiosis diagnosed?

Coccidiosis is diagnosed by performing a microscopic examination of a stool sample. Since the oocysts are much smaller than the eggs of intestinal worms, a careful fecal evaluation must be made. Infection with some of the less common coccidial parasites is diagnosed with a blood test.

How is the coccidial infection treated?

The most common drug used to eliminate coccidia is a sulfa-type
antibiotic. It is usually given for ten to fourteen days. In severe infections, it may be necessary to repeat the treatment. Other drugs may be required if diarrhea and dehydration occur. If the sulfa-type drug is not effective, other treatments are available. Re-infection of susceptible dogs is common so environmental disinfection is important. The use of diluted chlorine bleach [one cup (250 ml) of bleach mixed in one gallon (3.8 L) of water] is effective if the surfaces and premises
can be safely treated with it.

Are the coccidial parasites of my dog infectious to humans?coccidiosis Coccidia

“The most common coccidia found in dogs do not have any affect on humans.”

The most common coccidia found in dogs do not have any affect on humans. However, less common types of coccidia are potentially  infectious to humans. One parasite, called Cryptosporidium, may be carried by dogs or cats and may be transmitted to people. This parasite has also been found in the public water supply of some major cites. It poses a health risk for immunosuppressed humans such as AIDS patients, those taking immune suppressing drugs, cancer patients, or the
elderly.

Good hygiene and proper disposal of dog feces are important
in minimizing risk of transmission of all canine parasites to humans, or to other animals.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

What are Tapeworms?

tapewormTapeworms are flat intestinal worms that are made up of many small segments, each about ¼ – ½” (3-5 mm) long. Unlike roundworms that live freely in the intestinal tract, tapeworms attach to the wall of the small intestine using hook-like mouthparts.

Tapeworms belong to the cestode family of intestinal worms. The most common tapeworm of dogs and cats is Dipylidium caninum.
The adult worms may reach up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length. The
individual segments begin to develop starting behind the head and move down the tapeworm as they gradually mature, finally being shed at the opposite end, either singly or in short chains. These segments, called proglottids, are passed in the feces when an infected dog defecates. They are about 1/8″ (3 mm) long and look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds.
Occasionally they can be seen moving on the hairs around the anus or on the surface of freshly passed feces. As the tapeworm segment dries, it becomes a golden color and eventually breaks open, releasing the fertilized eggs into the environment.

Unlike roundworms, dogs cannot become infected by eating fertilized tapeworm eggs.

Tapeworms must first pass through an intermediate host (a flea) before they can infect a dog.

tapeworm infection 2 TapewormsHow do dogs get tapeworms?

When the infected eggs are released into the environment, they have
to be swallowed by immature flea larvae in the environment. Once inside
the larval flea, the tapeworm egg continues to develop as the flea
matures into an adult flea. During grooming or in response to a flea
bite, a dog can ingest the tapeworm infected flea and complete the life
cycle.

Are tapeworms dangerous for my dog?

Tapeworms do not normally cause serious health problems in dogs. Occasionally dogs will drag their bottoms on the ground, a behavior known as scooting, in order to allay this irritation. Note that scooting can also occur for other reasons such as impacted anal sacs.

 

In puppies, heavy tapeworm infestation can be more serious. Lack of growth, anemia and intestinal blockages can occur. Occasionally, the head of the tapeworm or scolex detaches from the intestinal wall; the entire adult tapeworm will then be passed in the feces or vomited up.

How is a diagnosis made?

Clinical diagnosis is usually made by observing the white mobile tapeworm segments in the feces or crawling around the anus. They often look like grains of rice.

Tapeworm segments are only passed intermittently and therefore are often not diagnosed on routine fecal examination. If you find any segments, white or golden color, bring them to your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

With today’s drugs, treatment is simple and effective. The parasiticide may be given either in the form of tablets or by injection. It causes the parasite to dissolve in the intestines so you normally will not see tapeworms passed in the stool. These drugs are very safe and should not cause any side effects.

 

Is there anything else I should do?tapeworm infection Tapeworms

“Flea control is critical in the management and prevention of tapeworm infection.”

Flea control is critical in the management and prevention of tapeworm
infection. Flea control involves treating the dog and the environment
.Your veterinarian can recommend a safe and effective flea control for
your pet. If your dog lives in a flea-infested environment,
re-infection with tapeworms may occur in as little as two weeks. Since
tapeworm medication is so effective, recurrent tapeworm infections are
almost always due to re-infection from fleas and not failure of the
product.

Can I get tapeworms from my dog?

You cannot get tapeworms directly from your dog. Dipylidium caninum,
the most common canine tapeworm, depends on the flea as the
intermediate host. A person must swallow an infected flea to become
infected. A few cases of tapeworm infection have been reported in
children. Vigorous flea control will also eliminate any risk of children
becoming infected.

Although Dipylidium species are the most common tapeworms in dogs, other cestodes are also important in certain areas.

Taenia species – These are tapeworms that are acquired by eating prey or waste containing the infective larval
stage. These are much larger tapeworms, often up to one yard (one meter) in length. Intermediate hosts include rodents, rabbits, hares and sheep. The intermediate stages develop hydatid cysts in various organs in the intermediate host. There are effective medications that will eliminate Taenia infections in dogs. If your dog eats prey such as rodents or rabbits, re-infection can occur with passage of tapeworm segments in 6-8 weeks.

Echinococcus species – These are very small tapeworms, consisting of only three or four segments, and are usually
less than 3/8″ (1 cm) in length. Intermediate hosts can be sheep, horses and occasionally man. In humans the disease is called
hydatidosis, hydatid disease, or hydatid cyst disease, and results in cysts being formed in the liver. The disease is very rare in the United States, but has been reported in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Humans are infected by eating contaminated meat or by accidentally ingesting eggs that have originated from the feces of dogs, coyotes or foxes harboring the adult tapeworm. Fortunately, de-worming preparations, particularly those containing praziquantel, are effective for eliminating this cestode from infected dogs.

Prevention of cestode tapeworm infection involves avoidance of uncooked or partially cooked meat or meat by-products.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Roundworms

roundworm puppyRoundworms is the common name for several species of nematodes or ascarids. The name roundworms is derived from the tubular shape of the worms. Several species can infect dogs, but the species Toxocara canis can cause significant problems in humans as well as the species found in raccoons, Baylisascaris procyonis.

Dogs can become infested with roundworms by ingesting the eggs in the environment deposited in fecal matter, through the placenta while in the womb, or in the milk when nursing. The larvae then migrate through the liver and lungs of the puppy where they enter the air way, are coughed up, and then swallowed. They then settle in the intestinal tract absorbing the nutrients that should be meant for your puppy. A lot of damage is done when they are migrating through the body.

In humans, accidental ingestion of roundworm eggs can also migrate internally causing a syndrome know as visceral larva migrans. Signs of  VLM  can be characterized by hepatomegaly (liver enlargement), lung disease, and increase in eosinophils from allergic reactions. The larva can also migrate through the nervous system causing neurologic disease.
In some children, the larvae can migrate to the eyes causing inflammation and may result in blindness.

roundworms 300x221 Roundworms in Puppies

Contamination of the environment by raccoons has caused  significant problems in some regions. The migration of the raccoon roundworms also cause more significant disease problems. Accidental ingestion has also occurred when children may have chewed on firewood, or when playing in contaminated sandboxes or playgrounds. The best defense for this is to be sure children do not chew on objects that may have been contaminated and to wash their hands after playing outside.

Because of the potential infection of people, puppies and dogs should
be de-wormed every 2 weeks starting at 2 weeks of age and then once a month as maintenance when 4 months old. The newer heartworm and flea preventions also include a dewormer to control hookworms and roundworms. Dogs infested with roundworms can pass thousands of eggs in their feces. These eggs can survive in the environment  and be
infective for several years.

For more information, visit Pets and Parasites

CDC.gov What every Pet owner Should Know about Hookworms and Roundworms

Roundworms -Ascariasis http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/ascariasis/index.html

Hookworms

hookworm teethHookworms are a very common intestinal parasite of dogs. They get their nickname from the hook-like mouth parts (teeth) that they use to anchor themselves to the wall of the intestinal tract.  Once they have attached, they feed on the blood of their host. Hookworms are very small and are difficult to see with the naked eye, but the damage and the amount of blood they consume can be massive. Large numbers of hookworms in young puppies can cause severe anemia from the blood loss and many puppies can die without a blood transfusion.

Dogs can get hookworms many different ways. Young puppies can be infected while still in their mother’s womb directly through the placenta as well as through the milk when nursing. Because of this early infection, puppies should be de-wormed when they are just 2 weeks old and repeated every 2 weeks for the first few months of their lives. Monthly de-worming is recommended as a regular prevention.

 

 

Adult dogs can become infected by walking through contaminated soil where active larvae hatched from eggs deposited in fecal matter can penetrate directly through the pads of their feet. Once the larvae enter the skin, they then migrate through the body until they reach the lungs, at which time they are coughed up and swallowed. While the hookworms are migrating through the body, many can encyst in the muscle and lay dormant for many years. These are the source of hookworms that infect puppies while in the womb. After the hookworms are swallowed, they reach the intestinal tract and latch on to the wall of the intestine and start feeding on blood. The adult worms also mate and lay thousands of eggs that are passed in the feces. The eggs hatch into
larvae in moist warm environments which start the life cycle again. 11. Ancylostoma adults Hookworms

Humans can also become infected if walking barefoot through contaminated areas, however, the hookworms cannot complete their life cycle, but do cause a localized dermatitis where they penetrate the skin and can cause other problems while trying to migrate through the body.
Some people can have allergic reactions to the migrating worms.

Dogs can also be infected by ingesting the larvae, either by cleaning their feet or fur, or when drinking water or licking contaminated surfaces.

 

Because of the prevalence of hookworms in dogs, many veterinarians and the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) recommend routine de-worming with anthelmintics. Several of the newer flea and heartworm preventatives also include ingredients to remove hookworms and other parasites as well. Your puppy should be tested for hookworms as soon as your get him and follow your veterinarians recommendations for maintenance. Breeders should have the mother dog and young puppies dewormed every 2 weeks. Anthelmintics do not affect the dormant hookworms in the muscle.  Studies have shown that these hookworms can release during gestation and infect the puppies for up to seven
consecutive litters.

Signs of hookworm infection can include pale gums, a dark ,tarry stool, diarrhea, weight loss and failure to thrive.  Older dogs can develop diarrhea or dark, tarry stools.

You can limit the amount of hookworms deposited in your yard by cleaning up the fecal material and disposing of it. Fecal waste from dogs should not be used in compost bins, but there are special compost bins to handle the waste.

Canine Influenza

fluDid you know that dogs also have a flu virus, Canine Influenza (H3N8). Like the Swine flu, a vaccination for Canine influenza has been developed.

 

In January 2004, there was a sudden outbreak of respiratory disease among 22 racing greyhounds at a Florida racetrack. Most of the dogs developed a mild fever followed by a cough that lasted about 14 days, and then recovered. But slightly more than one third of the dogs died after developing hemorrhaging in the lungs. Within six months, the virus turned up in other racing greyhounds at tracks in six other states- then at 20 tracks in 11 states, and now the virus has affected pet dogs in over 30 states. However, it is most prevalent in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Colorado.

The canine flu virus actually mutated from a virus that has affected horses for over forty years. And since there has never been a case of the equine virus affecting humans, experts are fairly certain that the canine influenza virus will not infect humans either. But with the recent news and hype about the human swine flu, the canine influenza virus will continue to be monitored closely.

Canine influenza should be considered in dogs presenting with a cough and a recent history of exposure to other dogs. The biggest predisposing factor would be the pet’s lifestyle. If within the last 10 to 14 days, the dog was at a shelter, rescue facility, pet store, boarding facility, groomer, or doggie day care, canine influenza is a possible diagnosis. This new virus is easily transmitted between dogs in much the same way that flu spreads among humans, but not all dogs get sick and not all dogs who get sick will die. However, because this is still considered a new virus, all dogs are considered susceptible to
infection because they have no naturally acquired or vaccine induced immunity. Another problem is that the canine flu virus may initially be misdiagnosed as another respiratory disease in dogs known as “kennel cough” which could further cause the rapid spread of the disease.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, University of Florida Veterinary School veterinarian and researcher, in a scientific paper when the virus was first identified said, “Canine influenza is really the new kid on the block for vets to consider in the differential diagnosis for kennel cough.” She further cautions veterinarians that while 80 percent of flu-stricken dogs will have a mild form of the disease, even dogs who are not overtly sick could be contagious. When asked why we haven’t heard much about this disease in recent years, she states, “I think when it was first reported in 2004 it was a very newsworthy item. I think the virus has now become commonplace in many communities throughout the United States and so it has lost its newsworthy glamor.” This may
change with the release of the new vaccination and the hype of the Swine flu vaccine about to be released.

Dog owners should take heed that if their dogs are coughing, sneezing, or have runny nose, they should not “shrug it off” as just kennel cough, “a little cold” or even allergies. Canine influenza usually starts out with coughing or gagging that may last as long as three weeks. Symptoms typically appear within 7 to 10 days post exposure. Clinical signs in dogs include coughing, runny nose, lethargy, depression, and a fever as high as 103-107 degrees. In the acute and severe form, a viral pneumonia can develop.

While highly contagious, some good news is that the virus is easily killed by soap and water, disinfectants and 10 percent bleach solutions. Transmission can be prevented by isolating all suspected dogs, thorough cleaning of all cages and exposed surfaces such as floors, kennels food dishes and bedding. Animal caretakers should be diligent about wearing disposable gloves or washing hands in between handling dogs and any urine, stool, or saliva, and before entering or leaving any facility that houses dogs.

In September 2008, the AVMA News Update stated, “The AVMA believes there is an urgent need for an effective canine influenza virus vaccine to improve the health and welfare of animals and reduce the financial impacts of the canine influenza.” Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health has developed a vaccine for the Canine Influenza Vaccine (H3N8).

Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health developed “this new vaccination (to) aid in the control of the disease associated with
canine influenza virus infection. It has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence and severity of lung lesions as well as duration of coughing and viral shedding.” Pet owners will want to discuss the new vaccination with their veterinarian and decide if it is right for their pet. The initial series is two vaccinations given two (2) to four (4) weeks apart. It can be administered to pet’s six (6) weeks or older. Annual vaccination is recommended.

 

While veterinarians do want dog owners to be aware and cautious of the canine influenza flu, they do not want people to panic. They warn owners to take their dog to their veterinarian at the first sign of any respiratory illness or problem. The virus has been identified in dogs of all ages. Dogs may be at higher risk if they are young, old, have an immune problem, or are undergoing chemotherapy. Diagnosing the Canine influenza virus is difficult based on the shedding periods and
the onset of clinical symptoms. Depending on the stage of presentation to the veterinarian, there are multiple tests that can be preformed. Blood testing during several phases of the illness may be the most common recommended by your veterinarian.

Dog owners should contact  their veterinarians for more information and to stay current on news about this disease.Helpful websites include University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine – www.vetmed.ufl.edu/pr

Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange, also called scabies, is an intensely itchy skin disease caused by a Sarcoptes scabei, a microscopic mite that burrows into the skin. Although dogs, cats, and humans all have a similar condition known as scabies, the mites are different for each host. Scabies in dogs is not the same as scabies in people.

Signs
Red, crusty lesions are most commonly seen on the ears, elbows and trunk of infected dogs. The lesions are extremely itchy, helping to distinguish sarcoptic mange from other skin conditions like ringworm and demodectic mange. The skin irritation is caused by the burrowing mites, which also release allergens and toxins into the skin. Constant scratching makes the skin susceptible to secondary infections with bacteria.

Diagnosis
Although the areas of hair loss may lead the veterinarian to suspect sarcoptic mange, the final diagnosis is made by performing a skin scraping test. The skin is scraped in several areas to loosen cells and mites which are then examined microscopically. Because the mites are difficult to find, repeated scrapings are often indicated. Other tests may be performed to make sure the hair loss is not due to a cause other than mites.

Treatment
Treatments may include dips or medications given by mouth or by injection. Treatments are usually given every two weeks until the symptoms have resolved and the pet tests negative for mites.

Prevention
Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious among dogs. Infected dogs should be separated from other dogs until treatment is complete. Most other mammals, including humans, can be infected with a type of Sarcoptes, but the mite is different for each host. Mites from animals may get on people and cause itchiness for a few days, but will not actually cause an infection. However, until the pet is treated, mites may continue causing problems for their owners. People with skin irritations caused by canine scabies should consult their doctor for treatment to reduce the temporary itching sensation.

Cats do not get Sarcoptes, but have a similar disease caused by a different mite, Notoedres cati. It spreads easily among cats. Infected cats should receive prompt treatment and should be separated from other cats until treatment is complete. Like Sarcoptes, Notoedres does not cause scabies in people but may occasionally cause temporary, itchy skin lesions.

True scabies in people is always contracted from close contact with other people. Children, the elderly, and immunosuppressed individuals are at higher risk. Infection is usually the result of prolonged, direct contact between sexual partners or members of the same household. The organism can live for about 72 hours in the environment, so it is possible to spread scabies via sharing of unwashed clothing or bedding.

The video below show a case of severe sarcoptic mange in a stray dog.

Raw Food Diet for Pets

For a majority of pet owners, a quick trip to the local grocery or even pet superstore is the easiest way to pick up their pets’ food.  People might debate favorite brands, but most will use some sort of commercial dry or canned diet for their four legged friends.  For a few pet owners though, preparing a meal for the family dog involves a little more work and a lot of raw meat.  Are homemade or raw diets a good idea?

Take a stroll down the pet food aisle of your favorite store and your eyes will take in every imaginable color, a few cartoon characters and a lot of claims stating the food is “improved”, “natural” or even “organic”.  It’s truly a marketing bonanza!  More than 3,000 brands of pet food fill the aisles and pet owners will spend about $18 billion to feed their pets each and every year.

But, high profile recalls, sick pets and corporate mistrust has moved a small number of pet owners to consider making their pets’ food at home, instead of buying it in a bag.  An Internet search for “raw diets” brings up almost 3 million different results, many of which claim that this sort of food is nutritionally superior to the commercially prepared diets.

The raw food diet trend began in 1993 with the publication of “Give Your Dog A Bone” written by Australian veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst.  Building on the close evolutionary relationship between our dogs and their wolf cousins, Dr. Billinghurst claims that in domesticating the dog we “changed the wolf’s appearance and mind…but not the basic internal workings or physiology”.  Many pet owners agree with this theory and have flocked to a raw meat type of diet for their animals.

Proponents of raw diets claim the foods give their pets more energy, provide more nutrition and overall, their dogs and cats are healthier than animals fed a typical dry or commercial diet.  During the massive pet food recall of 2007, the number of people opting for homemade diets increased dramatically and many have continued to prepare their pet’s food at home.

Adding more fuel to the fire, advocates of homemade foods persist in claims that commercial diets, especially those with a high percentage of grain, are actually shortening the life span of our animals.

How many of these arguments are valid and which ones lack evidence?

First, it is important to understand that all of the reports of increased energy and healthier pets are simply observations by the owners.  Actual scientific and verifiable evidence supporting these claims is non-existent.  To be fair, there is no evidence to refute these statements either.

Many of Dr. Billinghurst’s basic arguments are answered by veterinarians, both in the clinic with clients and in the media.  For example, the claim that dogs must eat meat because they are related to wolves is discussed and usually dismissed.  As a well respected blog, Skeptvet.com, states dogs are omnivores and will often eat a wide variety, including some fruits and vegetables.  Not to mention that there has been more than 100,000 years of divergence between dogs and wolves as well as intense selective breeding, especially in the last 3,000 years.

Another claim that is used by raw food advocates is that dogs and cats can’t digest grains, especially the corn and wheat ingredients found in many commercial diets.  This contention is also refuted by scientific studies showing dogs use these cooked grains as effectively as other carbohydrate sources.

But, perhaps the biggest reason many pet owners opt for preparing their pets’ meals is a mistrust of the corporations formulating the dry foods.  Recalls due to contamination, excessive or deficient nutrients and bacterial contamination seem all too commonplace.  Although these recalls have happened occasionally and pets have become sick, the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of commercial diets are not only safe for our pets, they also provide an optimum level of nutrition, helping out pets live full and healthy lives.

So, is one type of diet actually better than another?

The answer to that question is complex and should always involve a discussion with your veterinarian.  Raw diets, for all their purported benefits, do come with significant risks.  Bacterial contamination is more prevalent with these diets and the potential for an imbalance of nutrients is very high.  If you do choose to use a homemade or raw diet, talk with your veterinarian and use an approved veterinary nutritional site, like BalanceIt.com to insure that your pet does benefit from your extra work.

Also, remember that many pet food companies have decades of experience, research and testing proving the effectiveness and safety of their diets.  It’s true that occasional recalls have happened, but these unfortunate events have also helped determine how to effectively handle this sort of crisis.  Lessons learned from past situations will help to prevent future issues.

Looking forward, science may give us an answer to this on-going and very passionate debate.  But, for now, your best source of advice is not an online forum or manufacturer’s website with products to sell, but rather you should put your trust in your veterinarian.
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Dr. Debra Garrison is a veterinarian at the Treaschwig Veterinary Clinic