Parvovirus in Puppies

I work at a large hospital located in central Phoenix. For the last two weeks, we have seen a surge in parvovirus infections in puppies. While some of them were not vaccinated to prevent the disease, I am also seeing some dogs who were vaccinated. Here is the problem, in an effort to save money the pet owners bought vaccines from a feed store, pet store or on-line. Some paid their the pup’s breeders to give the shots. In each of these cases, I am concerned that these vaccines were either stored, …

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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

Keeping your Pet Healthy on a Budget

dog-railroad-tracks-resizeThe economy is in gloomy and may be for years. Whether it’s the stock market falling or crazy bail outs, saving money in tough economic times is a challenge. Pet owners also feel the stress of trying to make ends meet and many may be tempted to take shortcuts with their pet’s health care. So, when and where can pet owners cut back?

Studies have repeatedly shown that a large majority of pet owners consider their pets as a family member. We spoil them with birthday parties, presents, and all manner of toys and treats to keep them happy. But, when money is tight, extra expenses need to go. Sadly, some pet owners choose to avoid veterinary visits as one means to save money. And believe it or not, others might give up their pets completely.

Knowing what you can safely do at home to lower your pet’s health care costs is a good way to insure a healthy pet and a healthy wallet. You should also know what to avoid!!

First, don’t skimp on wellness or preventive care. Vaccinations and parasite prevention are important parts of maintaining your pet’s health and yours as well. Diseases like rabies and Leptospirosis are zoonotic, meaning they can be spread between animals and people. Similarly, intestinal parasites or even fleas and ticks, are capable of transmitting serious diseases to our families.

Some owners might choose to buy vaccines online or from a pet store. While this idea sounds like a cost-saving measure, there are many risks. It is easy enough to learn how to give a shot, but can you trust that the supplier properly stored the vaccines? Vaccines are delicate biological suspensions and require constant refrigeration to be effective. Some need proper mixing in order to work correctly. Improper preparation could make the whole process worthless. Also, your pet may have an allergic reaction to the vaccine which means a costly trip to the Animal ER.

Choosing a lower cost flea product or a “do-it-yourself” dewormer at a general merchandise store is another option a pet owner might investigate to save money. Sadly, according to the Center for Public Integrity (www.publicintegrity.org), these over-the-counter products are likely responsible for a sharp increase in pet deaths and adverse events in recent years. The EPA has received more than 25,000 reports of over-the-counter pesticide reactions in pets since 2003. So, although you might save a few dollars on the product, the extra trip to the veterinarian will likely cost a lot more!

Over the Counter Flea Products may seem like a bargain, but many do not kill fleas and may in fact cause toxic reactions in your pet. I have had many pets come in still covered in fleas and these products were just applied. Care must also be taken not to use products labeled for dog use on cats. Permethrine products are extremely toxic to cats.

Pet emergencies shouldn’t be a place for shortcuts either. Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, an emergency veterinarian in Colorado, says many owners simply use topical antibiotics on bite wounds or lacerations in order to avoid treating the pet when initially injured. But, most of these animals end up coming into the veterinary hospital with out of control infections. Dr. Mazzaferro cautions owners against bandaging their pets without proper training. If put on too tight, homemade bandages act like tourniquets, causing swelling of the limb and serious loss of circulation. And always check with your veterinarian before giving any over the counter human medication to your pet! Many pet poisonings are caused by human medications. Tylenol is lethal to cats.

But don’t worry; you can still save on your veterinary bills with a few simple steps at home.

First, (and this sounds very simple) play with your pet! Veterinary behaviorists all agree that a tired dog is a happy dog and happy dogs don’t tear up furniture or get into trouble. Since behavior issues are the number one reason for abandoning pets, this fun task might literally save your pet’s life.

Playing with your pet has health benefits as well. A well-exercised pet is less likely to be overweight and suffer from obesity related problems such as arthritis, certain cancers, or diabetes.

Next, when exercising your pet, use appropriate restraints and confinements. Pets who roam freely are often hit by traffic, get into fights or eat something dangerous. Emergencies like these can end up hitting your wallet very hard.

Even loving your pet has money saving benefits. Dr. Phil Zeltzman, a board certified veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania, says that petting and caressing your pet can help find those little lumps and bumps sooner. Cancer is very common in our pets and can be very expensive to treat. Earlier detection generally means a better outcome and usually less expensive treatments.

Despite all of these precautions, some pets will just get into trouble or develop a serious disease. Although veterinary medicine is still a bargain compared to other health services, most of us would be hard pressed to pay a big veterinary bill out of pocket. Companies like Pets Best Insurance (www.petsbest.com) offer a variety of insurance plans to assist owners with unexpected costs. But even today only a small percentage of pet owners insure their pets’ health. (See Pet Resources for more Pet Insurance Links)
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance

CareCredit is also another option. CareCredit offers a full range of payment plans to meet every financing need. With the popular No Interest Payment Plans* there are no interest charges if the balance is paid in full within the specified time period. Or, if you prefer an even lower monthly payment, you can choose the low interest, Extended Payment Plan* for treatment plans from $1,000 to over $25,000. Plus, there are no up front costs, no annual fees, and no pre-payment penalties. It’s easy to apply and you’ll receive an online decision in seconds.carecredit-026

We all want to keep our furry friends safe and healthy, but it is challenging when just feeding the family stretches your budget. Talk with our staff about your pet’s specific health needs and see what should be addressed immediately and what can wait.

Debra Garrison, DVM