prevention

Planning for Your Pet's Preventive Care Exam

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Spring is a bustling time or veterinarians. In small animal medicine, kittens start arriving. Dogs, too, even though they don’t have a seasonal aspect to their reproductive cycles. Spring is a popular time for people to want to add a puppy to the family.

With the weather warming up, preventive medicine gets a boost in the spring, too. Pet owners begin thinking more about heartworms, fleas, ticks, and parasites— which, of course, are often year-round risks.

What is my veterinarian trying to assess during an appointment?

First things first of a wellness visit is a health evaluation. This typically includes a thorough history including your pet’s breed, age, lifestyle, behavior, and diet, then a comprehensive physical exam, including a measuring of thins such as weight, temperature, pulse, and respiration rates. All of the information gathered will be used to further assess whether your pet may be ill.

Assuming your pet receives a clean bill of health at their wellness exam, the appointment is focused more on preventive care: what can be done to prevent your pet from actually getting ill, divided into categories:

  • Diagnostics (Heartworm testing, FELV/FIV testing, fecal examinations, etc)

  • Parasite control (heartworms, external parasites, and intestinal parasites)

  • Vaccinations

  • Identification (microchipping, rabies tags)

  • Reproductive counseling (spay/neuter)

  • Dental Hygiene

  • A plan for a follow-up or next routine visit

Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate approach for your pet in each of these categories based on the information gathered in the initial wellness exam, and go over their recommendations with you. This is also a good time to bring up any questions or concerns you have.

How often should I take my pet to the vet?

Adult pets should see their veterinarian at least annually to go over preventive care needs. Puppies and kittens require more frequent visits, usually every few weeks until they are several months old. If your pet hasn’t seen their veterinarian in awhile, consider spring to be your launch into taking the step of scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian today.


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What is the Canine Distemper Virus?

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Distemper is one of the most serious diseases your dog can get. It is also one of the most preventable. Here are the facts, symptoms, treatment options, and prevention methods that every dog owner needs to know about distemper.


What Is Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper should sound familiar to you if your dog is up-to-date on his vaccinations. Veterinarians consider the distemper vaccine to be a core vaccination, along with the parvovirus and rabies vaccines.

The disease is highly contagious and potentially lethal. A paramyxovirus causes distemper in dogs, and it is closely related to the measles and rinderpest viruses. It causes severe illness in the host by attacking multiple body systems, resulting in a widespread infection that is difficult to treat.


How Is Canine Distemper Spread?

There are three ways dogs can get canine distemper:

  1. Through direct contact with an infected animal or object

  2. Through airborne exposure

  3. Through the placenta

Canine distemper is spread through direct contact or airborne exposure, rather like the common cold in humans. When an infected dog or wild animal coughs, sneezes, or barks, he releases aerosol droplets into the environment, infecting nearby animals and surfaces, like food and water bowls.

The good news is that the virus does not last long in the environment and can be destroyed by most disinfectants. The bad news is that distemper-infected dogs can shed the virus for up to several months, putting dogs around them at risk.

Dogs are not the only animals that can get distemper. Wild animals like raccoons, foxes, wolves, coyotes, skunks, ferrets, and mink can also get the distemper virus. This means that an outbreak of distemper in the local wildlife population can put dogs at risk for catching the disease even if they do not come into contact with other dogs.

Female dogs can also spread the virus through the placenta to their puppies, which is one of the reasons why it is important to fully vaccinate any dog you plan to breed.


What Are the Symptoms of Canine Distemper?

Distemper dogs experience a wide range of symptoms depending on how advanced the disease is in their bodies. Once a dog becomes infected, the virus initially replicates in the lymphatic tissue of the respiratory tract before moving on to infect the rest of the dog’s lymphatic tissue, the respiratory tract, the GI tract, the urogenital epithelium, the central nervous system, and optic nerves. This results in two stages of symptoms.

Stage One

The first symptom of distemper in dogs is usually watery to pus-like discharge from his eyes, followed by fever, loss of appetite, and clear nasal discharge. Most dogs develop a fever approximately 3-to-6 days after being infected, but the initial symptoms depend on the severity of the case and how the patient reacts to it. In general, the symptoms associated with distemper in dogs during the first stages of infection are:

  • Fever

  • Clear nasal discharge

  • Purulent eye discharge

  • Lethargy

  • Anorexia

  • Coughing

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Pustular dermatitis (rarely)

  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord

If a dog infected with distemper survives the acute stage of the illness, he may also develop hyperkeratosis of the paw pads and nose, which gives distemper the nickname “hard pad disease.” This distemper symptom causes the pads of a dog’s feet to harden and enlarge and is uncomfortable.

One of the other risks associated with distemper in dogs is a secondary bacterial infection that attacks when a dog’s immune system is compromised by the distemper virus. Secondary bacterial infections can cause respiratory and GI symptoms, including:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Change in respiratory rate

  • Pneumonia


Stage Two

Some dogs develop neurological signs as the disease progresses and attacks the central nervous system. These signs are particularly disturbing for owners.

  • Head tilt

  • Circling

  • Partial or full paralysis

  • Seizures

  • Nystagmus (repetitive eye movements)

  • Muscle twitching

  • Convulsions with increased salivation and chewing motions

  • Death

Distemper in dogs presents with some or all of these symptoms, depending on the severity of the case. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “distemper is often fatal, and dogs that survive usually have permanent, irreparable nervous system damage.”


Is my dog at risk for Distemper?

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Distemper is a risk to all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies under four months old are particularly susceptible to canine distemper. If your puppy shows any symptoms of distemper, call your vet immediately.


How to Treat Canine Distemper

There is no cure for canine distemper. Veterinarians diagnose distemper through a combination of clinical signs and diagnostic tests, or through a postmortem necropsy. Once diagnosed, care is purely supportive. Veterinarians treat the diarrhea, vomiting, and neurological symptoms, prevent dehydration, and try to prevent secondary infections. Most vets recommend that dogs be hospitalized and separated from other dogs to prevent the spread of infection.

The survival rate and length of infection depend on the strain of the virus and on the strength of the dog’s immune system. Some cases resolve as quickly as 10 days. Other cases may exhibit neurological symptoms for weeks and even months afterward.


Preventing Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is entirely preventable. There are several things you can do to prevent distemper in dogs:

  • Make sure your puppy gets the full series of distemper vaccinations

  • Keep distemper vaccinations up-to-date throughout your dog’s life and avoid any gaps in vaccinations

  • Keep your dog away from infected animals and wildlife

  • Vaccinate pet ferrets for distemper

  • Be careful socializing your puppy or unvaccinated dog, especially in areas where dogs congregate, like dog parks, classes, and doggy day care

By following these steps, you can keep your dog safe from distemper. If you have more questions about distemper in dogs, talk to your veterinarian, and call your vet immediately if you suspect your dog might be showing symptoms of distemper.


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Microchipping your pet: pain-free, worry-free

What is microchipping?

Microchipping is a step which you can take to assure that should your pet get loose out into the wild, you two can be reunited. It can be done with a variety of animals, including horses, dogs, cats, ferrets, and most other mammals.

It is a process that involves a grain-sized microchip placed under the skin of the pet. Should your pet get picked up by a local vet or shelter, the unique number can be used to identify you as the owner and provide contact information. The more chances of pet reunification, the less homeless animals roam the streets and bide their time in shelters. What the chip does not do is act as a GPS-tracker to specifically locate your pet.

The most important step— registration!

Once the chip is in place, you’re probably thinking—all set! My work here is done. Not quite. Due to privacy-protecting protocols, microchip companies require the owner to personally register their pet’s microchip and input their personal contact information into a password-protected portal. This assures not just anyone can get ahold of your pet. You might be thinking the facility that has scanned your pet now has all of your information, but fear not.

Privacy-protecting protocols

Your privacy is protected through the microchipping company, which acts as your middleman. For example, when the vet scans your pet, they will receive a unique identification number that they will share with the microchip service when declaring a found pet. The microchip service will then reference the number in their database and reach out to you with the details of where your pet is and how to get ahold of the vet. This assures that your private information is not being shared with third parties.

Effectiveness of microchipping

Involving over 7,700 stray pets, the number of non-microchipped dogs that were safely returned to their owners was just under 22%. Whereas, dogs with implanted microchips have a 51.2% chance of being reunited with their owners.

Pain-free, worry free

A Datamars Microfindr microchip is the size of a grain of rice which contains a radio transmitter and a minute electronic device containing the animal’s ID number. It is placed between the shoulder blades of your pet. Think of the pain level similar to an injection or vaccine. Microchipping takes mere seconds and does not require putting your pet under any anesthesia.

Because microchips use radio-frequency identification technology, microchips do not require a power source like a GPS. When a microchip scanner is passed over the pet, the microchip gets enough power from the scanner to transmit the microchip’s ID number. Since there’s no battery and no moving parts, there’s nothing to keep charged, wear out, or replace. The microchip will last your pet’s lifetime.

PetLink at River Landings Animal Clinic

PetLink is the service we use here at River Landings Animal Clinic. This service, in particular, offers lifetime registration and no update fees. The service is available to you 24/7/365. Give us a call to schedule a chance to micro chip your pet today.


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