August 2014 by Dr. Ryan Bullock
I remember the frantic phone call well last summer when my brother’s wife was on the other end of the line telling me that their English Setter “Belle” had just been bitten several times by a rattlesnake (3 times in the neck and 5 times in the chest to be exact) while out on their land. My first thought was to get her emergency care, but my second thought was “thank goodness I had given her a rattlesnake vaccine 3 weeks prior when I had her in the clinic for a dental cleaning”. Belle spent several days in the hospital, but she eventually pulled through and is doing great now! I have no doubt that she would have died if she hadn’t been vaccinated.
In 2005, a company called Red Rock Biologics (redrockbiologics.com) developed a “rattlesnake vaccine”. The purpose of the vaccine is to lessen the severity of damage done by a rattlesnake bite and hopefully save pet’s lives. It works by producing protective antibodies in your pet’s body that will help to neutralize the venom. It is most effective with Western Diamondback bites, but is also at least partially effective against all other rattlesnakes except the Mojave. It is effective against Copperheads, but IS NOT effective against Water Moccasins (Cotton Mouths) or Coral Snakes.
The vaccine only lessens the severity of the bite, but does not entirely mitigate all of its effects, so you should still seek emergency care in every case! Factors such as size of pet, size of snake, location of bite, and amount of venom injected all contribute to the end result. Every snake bite is different and all need emergency veterinary care!
So what results have we seen? Last summer, we had 13 dogs come into the clinics with rattlesnake bites. Of these, 6 were vaccinated and 7 were not. All 6 vaccinated dogs survived and are doing well now. Of the 7 that were not vaccinated, 3 passed away as a result of their bites, and the other 4 survived and are doing well. Some of the deceased received the full course of treatment with antivenin, some did not due to finances. All in all, I am impressed with the results and recommend vaccination for any “at risk” dog. I know “Belle” highly recommends it to all of her dog buddies!
July 2014 by Dr. Ryan Bullock
In many pets, the rumble of an oncoming thunderstorm can cause fear and anxiety. Some pets will quietly shake in their bed, while others can become much more destructive while dealing with their anxiety. For many pet owners, they sometimes match their pet’s anxiety because they know they will be the ones dealing with a scared and sometimes destructive pet all night. Here are three tips to help your pet deal with their anxiety the next time the thunder rolls:
1) Calming methods: Try to accommodate your pet with a quite room where they cannot see the flashes of the lightening. Add background noise like a noise machine or turn the TV on loud to drown out the thunder. Try to distract them with their favorite toy or game. Medications such as Alprazolam (generic Xanax) work very well to decrease anxiety and can be given on an “as needed” basis. In more severe cases, sedatives such as Acepromazine can be used. Consult with your veterinarian about medications for storm anxiety.
2) Behavior modification: This method requires more work on your part, but has chance for longterm success. Play recordings of storms at low volumes for short durations (3-5 minutes) and associate these times with positive things such as treats, toys, or games. Over time increase the volume and duration of the recordings. Never reprimand your pet during these sessions if they become afraid as this will only worsen anxiety. It’s also important to never reinforce their stressed behavior by praising them and telling them its “OK”.
3) The ThunderShirt: In 2008, the ThunderShirt was developed to help pets deal with anxiety – most specifically thunderstorms and separation anxiety. The idea behind the ThunderShirt is similar to that of swaddling infants to comfort them. The shirt applies constant, gentle pressure to the pet which is soothing to some. My personal experience with this is product is very hit or miss. My mother swears by her Bichon’s ThunderShirt, while I have had other clients say it did not help their pet at all. My impression is that it’s about a 50% chance that the ThunderShirt will help. Check out Thunderworks.com for more information.
If your pet is afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks, consult your veterinarian about some of these tips and hopefully you will be able to work out a strategy so that both you and your pet can get some rest the next time a thunderstorm rolls in at midnight.
June 2014 Dr. Ryan Bullock
Over the past several years we have written several articles on how important heartworm prevention is for our pets. We live in one of the most endemic parts of the world for heartworm disease. The only places that have a higher incidence of heartworms are the coastlines along the Gulf of Mexico. According to Pfizer/Zoetis, 90% of dogs will contract heartworms at some point in their lifetime if never given a preventative that live in areas similar to ours. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, so year round protection is a necessity as we have mosquitoes all year. If a dog contracts heartworms, treatment is very expensive costing between $400 – $1000 depending upon the size of the dog and the treatment protocol used. If left untreated, a dog with heartworm’s life expectancy is shortened by several years.
The reality we all face is that we have a hard time remembering to give the oral chews, tablets, or topicals once EVERY month. We are all human and sometimes we forget. If this describes you, luckily there is a product now available from Pfizer / Zoetis called “Proheart 6”. It’s an injection given by your veterinarian under the skin in a manner similar to a vaccine that prevents heartworms for 6 months. In fact, many pet owners get the Proheart injection done on their dog at the same time as vaccines to make using it more convenient. The product is just as effective at preventing heartworms as any of the oral or topical products. It is also very affordable and is usually priced similar or even less than some of the popular oral heartworm preventatives such as Heartgard.
I think this product is really a great option for pet owners that either don’t use flea preventatives or just use them seasonally. If you use a monthly flea preventative year round (which is recommended), then a combo product that prevents heartworms and fleas may be a better choice for you as the Proheart injection does not prevent fleas. Some examples of combo products are Trifexis, Revolution, and Advantage Multi. But, if you have a hard time remembering to give your combo product every month, then using the Proheart injections and a separate monthly flea preventative might be a good choice for you. Go to their website at Proheart6.com to find out more information, or, ask your veterinarian.
May 2014 – Dr. Keith Leakey
I recently lost the first true love in my life to old age. Her name was Kaylee and she was the sweetest yellow dog I have ever laid my eyes on. She was my friend for the past 14 years and we got the chance to experience growing up together. From a poor college student and unruly puppy to a doctor and a therapy dog. She was always with me from my college years and my wedding day, to our move to Canyon Lake.
During her last days I found myself regretting not taking more walks or swims in the lake. I regret not rubbing her head and kissing her cheek when we left the house. I remember always walking away from the house with her standing in the window and only to return later in the day with her in the same place waiting for us to come home. The loyalty and love that our pets show us on a daily basis goes unrecognized when we get caught up in the insanity of this crazy world. I found that all the negativity that I would bring home would melt away when I would look into those brown eyes and smile. She would walk between my legs for her “hello” rub down. She deserved more than what I gave her at times and that is what I regret.
Over the last 15+ years of working at an animal clinic I have found that regret commonly creeps in when making the decision to let your loved friends go. I encourage pet owners to slow down and recognize the gift that each of our furry loved ones gives to us on a daily basis. All they ask of us is a “time out” from the hectic life we bring home. Make a point to spend another ten minutes of your day and devote it to them. You will come to find that this small amount of time in your day will provide you with a sense of clarity and perspective. Many have read the statement that ” I wish I could be half the person my dogs think I am.” I think we owe it to them to at least try.
Kaylee was my constant companion through change and has prepared me for a new adventure in life. My wife and I are expecting our first baby. I am sad, for this next step will be without her but am happy to explore being a daddy to something without fur over 100% of its body. I would like to thank her for teaching me the important things in life and in helping me to be the best parent I can be. I will miss our time together but remember you always.
March 2014 – Dr. Ryan Bullock
A New Year usually brings about discussions on “resolving” to lose weight, eating better, and getting in shape. So, I thought now would be a great time to discuss a new weight loss diet for dogs and cats that is working great to shed some of their excess “holiday weight”. Studies show that 82% of American pets are overweight. Obesity can lead to a myriad of health problems including endocrine, liver, and cardiovascular disease. It also leads to more severe, debilitating arthritis, lethargy, poor hair coat and skin quality, as well as making pets more susceptible to orthopedic injuries such as ACL knee ligament tears and back injuries. Obese pets will also hurt their owner’s pocket books by you having to pay for all of these health problems! Overall, pet obesity is a serious disease that will almost certainly shorten your pet’s life expectancy and decrease their overall quality of life.
So, what can we do about it? Diet, diet, diet! Fortunately, Hill’s has come out with a great new weight loss diet called “Hill’s Metabolic”. What makes this diet different and more effective than other weight loss diets is that it naturally increases pet’s metabolism which allows them to burn more calories each day without any added activity. Hill’s invested a lot of time and money to research which natural dietary ingredients can cause good fat-burning genes to express themselves more strongly, and bad fat-gaining genes to express themselves less. This “synergistic blend of nutrients” includes things like beta carotene, linoleic acid, myristic acid, and others that naturally cause your pet to burn more calories. The good news is that even if your pet does get into the other dog’s food or gets unauthorized treats from family members, they should still lose weight because they will have a higher metabolism. Research backs up this product as well: a study done on 314 pets that were fed this diet at home by their owners showed that 88% lost weight! We have been using this diet for about a year and every pet that I have put on it has lost weight, including my in law’s dog Jack, so I am very impressed!
You’ll be amazed at the new found energy your pet has once they shed those extra pounds. For more information ask your veterinarian and check out www.hillspet.com. I hope everyone has a Happy New Year in 2014!
February Is National Veterinary Dental Month!
February 2014 – Dr. Ryan Bullock
Because this month is “National Dental Month”, I figured it would be a great time to review why dental cleanings are so important in pets and to help you determine if your pet may be in need of one.
Have you ever flipped your pet’s lip up to look at their teeth? If you see a noticeable line of yellow tartar on the gum line, reddened gums, and some smelly breath, then it’s probably time take him/her to see your vet to see if they need a dental cleaning. Pets don’t brush their teeth 2-3 times a day like we do, so they are bound to get tartar buildup… which leads to gingivitis… and so on. A dental cleaning is not just brushing the teeth, it’s cleaning the tartar off the teeth with a ultrasonic scaler similar to what is used during a human dental cleaning. The teeth are then polished, normally with some type of sealant to help prevent tartar buildup from reoccurring as quickly. In more severe cases, tooth extractions might be indicated to prevent further infection. Dogs require anesthesia for this procedure, so it is normally an all day affair in which you drop them off at the clinic in the morning, and then take them home that afternoon.
The reason why this is so important is that bacteria grow under the line of tartar in pet’s mouths. This bacteria cause damage to the tooth enamel, gingival recession, bad breath, and discomfort with eating and drinking. The bacterial infection can also lead to tooth root abscesses and get into the blood stream and cause infections of the heart valves, liver, and kidneys. Generally speaking, small breed dogs will have dental disease earlier and more often than large breed dogs.
Brushing, dental chews, and dental diets are the best ways to prevent tartar buildup. But, once the tartar is present, a professional dental cleaning is the most effective way to clean if off. Most of our clients are impressed with how much better their pet seems to feel with their new healthy mouths, especially those that had more serious dental disease. If you have been putting off getting your pet’s teeth cleaned, this month may be a great time to do it as many hospitals (including ours) offer significant discounts all month to encourage pet owners to give their pets a healthy mouth!