Category Archives: parasites

Product Warning

I’m passing this along on an ‘off’ day for the blog because I feel that it’s important to share this info . The EPA has issued a statement concerning the danger of certain flea control products to children that come into contact with them.

An Environmental Protection Agency report warns that propoxur, a flea-killing chemical in flea collars marketed by Sergeant’s Pet Care Products and Wellmark International, is unsafe for children. However, the products can be distributed until two years from now, and retailers can continue to sell them after that until their stock is gone. Veterinary dermatologist Daniel Morris says there are safer products available and urges owners to consult with their veterinarian to determine the best approach.

There’s a more detailed article at this link.

I’ll leave it to you, readers, to decide how you feel about it. Sound off in the comments! I’d like to hear what you think.

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Filed under fleas, news, parasites, safety, toxicology

Fecal Samples – The Necessary Grossness

I’m going to be making a light post on Sunday because of the holiday, so instead of a news post today, I’ll be tackling a bigger topic.

Fecal floatations are the focus of today’s post. We always ask owners to bring a stool sample with them when their pet visits the hospital. This is an opportunity for us to check for intestinal worms and other parasites. “Worms” are a well-known concept to most owners. What’s lacking is the information about how we find the little buggers. You’ll be getting an up-close and personal look today.

I want to give some kudos where they’re due. Our veterinary technicians are the people that usually set up, run, and interpret our fecal samples. They handle poop all day long without complaint. It’s a nasty part of making sure our pets are healthy (and by extension their families, too). Thank you, Technicians!

We’re looking for evidence of worms and other parasites. Most of these nasty critters are attached to the intestinal wall in some fashion, so we don’t usually them in the pet’s stool. However, they shed eggs into the stool, and those eggs are what we’re searching for. In order to find them, we have to separate them from the fecal material. This whole process is designed to concentrate the eggs in one spot that we can sample. This gives us the best chance of finding them, and by extension, diagnosing the pet with adult intestinal worms.

Each photo is described/explained -after- the photo.

FecalFloat 20130521 469

This is part of the equipment needed to run a fecal sample. The blue pegboard thing is a test tube rack. The clear plastic tube is a test tube with a cone-shaped bottom. We use disposable dixie cups to avoid cross-contamination. The tongue depressor is used to move the stool sample from one step to the next.

FecalFloat 20130521 472
Samples need to be fresh. If they’re dried out, old, or frozen, the eggs can be hatched or damaged beyond our ability to find them. We know it’s gross to have you bring in poop, so here’s the kudos to owners for taking care of the collection part of the process. However, on that note, please notice that we don’t need a lot of stool. That’s a 50-cent-piece size, which is more than enough. We’ve had owners bring in the entire ziploc bag of stool, which is far more than we need. Just one little bit of formed stool is fine. If for the sake of not vomiting, by all means, grab the pile and run with it. 😉

FecalFloat 20130521 476
In this step, the stool is in the dixie cup. We’re adding a special liquid (Zinc Sulfate solution) to the cup.

FecalFloat 20130521 480
In this step, the stool is being broken up and mixed thoroughly with the Zinc Sulfate solution. We have to break up the stool to free the eggs from the fecal material. The end result is dissolved poop. It’s gross, yes.

FecalFloat 20130521 486
We then use a small funnel with a coarse filter in it to strain out the big chunks. We pour the liquid into the test tube.

FecalFloat 20130521 491

The test tube has to be filled right to the top of the tube, plus a tiny bit extra. We want to get a slight bulge of fluid on the top of the tube. As you can see, the cloudy brown liquid is the dissolved stool sample.

FecalFloat 20130521 499
A very thin square of glass called a cover slip is placed atop the fecal tube. The surface tension of the liquid is used to make the cover slip stick to the tube.

FecalFloat 20130521 507
The tube is placed in our centrifuge. A balance tube is put exactly opposite the fecal sample and filled with liquid to approximate the weight. We have to have the centrifuge balanced or it will self-destruct. Think about it as the same problem an unbalanced washer gets. (Whump-whump-whump-whump)

I have to explain a little bit of chemistry/physics here, so bear with me. The centrifuge spins the samples at a very high speed. (Again, just like the spin cycles on a washer.) We do this to get all of the big chunks to go to the bottom of the tube by way of gravity. The zinc sulfate solution in the tube is more dense than water (higher specific gravity). The eggs are lighter than most of the stool particles, so they will float up to the very top of the sample when the sample is spun. They concentrate right up against the cover slip. This is the critical step to getting a good result.

FecalFloat 20130521 508
As you can see in this sample, a lot of the stool particles have collected at the bottom of the tube. There are still some suspended in the liquid in this sample, but that’s a bit atypical for us to see. Usually the fluid is nearly clear.

We lift the cover slip off the top of the tube. The liquid right at the surface of the tube is pulled along with the cover slip, sticking to the bottom of it. The eggs are carried align with this small fluid sample. We place the cover slip down on a glass microscope slide.

FecalFloat 20130521 511
Here you can see the microscope slide (rectangular glass) with the cover slip stuck to it (square bit with the white edges/corners). The microscope has several different lenses that provide different levels of magnification. When we “read a fecal” we observe every single bit of the cover slip, looking for eggs.

I’ll show you the eggs we find below:

Hookworm
Hookworm

Roundworm
Roundworm

Whipworm
Whipworm

So, that’s what’s involved with “running a stool sample.” It’s a lot more involved than it seems. It’s a very important part of the twice-yearly checkups we recommend for pets. Hookworms and Roundworms are parasites that can be transmitted to human family members and other pets, so you definitely want to be sure your pet is checked twice a year.

It’s also a reminder that heartworm prevention ALSO prevents intestinal parasites. Keep your pets and you family protected with monthly prevention!

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Filed under laboratory, parasites, photos, preventive care, technician, zoonotic

Guest Blog – Stray Cat Adoptions

Winter made its presence certain today when we woke up to some snow on the ground. Whenever the weather turns cold like this, I wonder what happens to all of the stray cats and dogs that have been outside since the summertime. I always hope that someone will be able to take them in so they don’t suffer from exposure to the weather or starvation. It’s a rough time of year.

We frequently see stray cats that are brought in for the winter. Most of the time, clients have the best intentions and I certainly applaud their generosity in opening their homes, hearts, and wallets for these ragtag pets. There are a few dangers that I wish clients knew about ahead of time, especially if there are already cats in the house.

This week’s post was written by Diane, one of our LVTs. She will touch on a few of the concerns we have when taking in a new cat.

—–

A gentleman was in the hospital with his dog recently, and mentioned that he got a cat. I said, “Oh, where did you get him?” He responded that the cat wandered to his house, and the man decided to keep him. The gentleman commented, “We figured he’s been around a while outside and is still alive, so he must be healthy because he hasn’t died from anything yet, right?” I shuddered and my mind raced with all of the possible diseases and problems I needed to warn him about. I gathered some informational brochures and started the conversation.

I started with zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Rabies is by far the most important and deadly disease, but not the most common, and is transmitted by a bite from an infected animal. Intestinal parasites carried by animals must be addressed first. Roundworms, hookworms, and toxoplasmosis are all parasitic diseases that are spread to humans by contact with cat feces in soil or cat littler. Cat Scratch Fever is a flea-borne infection typically transmitted by a cat’s scratch or bite. A stool sample to check for intestinal parasites is the best way to find out what a cat may be carrying inside.

The next topic of conversation was about two viral diseases that the new cat could be carrying without any signs. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (FeLV) are diseases in cats found in every region of the country. Each is highly contagious fro cat to cat. They can be fatal infections. Both have few outward signs initially, and no “sure” signs. [Dr.H adds: when a sign of disease is 100% certain to be from that disease, we call it a pathognomonic sign. FIV and FeLV don’t have pathognomonic signs.]

These viral diseases are associated with illness and death of more cats than any other disease. The viruses work by weakening a cat’s immune system. Without testing, there is no way to know whether the cat is infected. Without a diagnosis, the cat cannot be treated properly. In some cats, signs don’t appear for weeks, months, or even years after they are infected. Testing is important so we know whether a cat is carrying these diseases.

Infected cats can show vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, fever, pale gums, dull or matted hair coat, swollen lymph nodes, mouth sores, or behavior changes. If the cat has been living outside for months or years, a new owner might not be aware of these sometimes subtle changes.

[Dr.H adds: Upper respiratory diseases, fleas/ticks, and ear mites are also very common problems seen in stray or orphan cats. While these problems aren’t generally life-threatening, they can be a serious headache for a new owner. These problems are highly contagious and rapidly spread to other cats in the household. Fleas and ticks are also a risk to humans. Vaccination and treating external parasites are a critical part of a “new stray cat” vet visit.]

If a person wants to bring in a stray, it’s imperative that the cat is examined and tested before coming into contact with people or other pets. Testing, vaccinating, and deworming should be performed, and a quarantine period may be appropriate, too.

I thanked the client for his willingness to give a stray cat a permanent home, but also tried to show him the risks a cat with an unknown history can bring. A full health check with the veterinarian is the first step to providing a loving, caring home.

——

Diane’s focus on the viral diseases is very appropriate. I counsel all owners of newly acquired cats to allow us to perform the simple blood test that can detect FIV and FeLV. Results are available within 10 minutes right in the hospital, and the test is quite sensitive. There are some nitpicky concerns with the age of testing for FIV, but FeLV can be tested for at *any* age.

I feel that knowing the viral status of new cats is the most important first step. These diseases will shorten a cat’s life considerably. While some owners are able to take in a cat that is positive for one/both of these infections, some owners don’t want to put their other cats at risk. In a rescue situation, the resources that will be spent on a cat with a generally fatal viral infection could be used to rescue several other healthy cats. It’s a very sticky situation wrapped up in ethics and harsh realities. Ultimately, as each owner or rescue group makes a decision about how to handle these cats, one thing is clear: it’s better to know what you’re dealing with. Testing is step one!

Please ask questions. We’ve brushed the surface of adopting a new cat, so I know there must be some things that you’d like us to go over in more detail. Thanks for reading!

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Filed under ethics, fleas, guest, infectious diseases, parasites, preventive care, vaccines, zoonotic

Tech Guest Blog : Fleas, Fleas, Fleas

Today’s topic was written by Jenn, our senior tech. The weather’s getting colder, but the fleas aren’t finished yet. We’ve seen a TON of cases, so Jenn wanted to review how we tackle a flea problem. -Dr.H

Fleas, fleas, and more fleas! That seems to be the trend this time of year. We always recommend preventing a flea infestation from happening by keeping pets on a topical foe preventative all year long. Once your pet has fleas, it can be an uphill battle to get rid of them.

A flea infestation usually begins 6-8 weeks prior to the first flea you notice on your pet. By the time fleas are seen, there can be thousands of flea eggs, larva, and pupae in your household. If you have multiple pets, the numbers dramatically increase. There is no magical medication that can kill the whole flea population or infestation in an instant. It will take three to six months to rid your home of an infestation.

The first step in controlling an infestation is to apply topical flea preventative on your pets. Select a product that is applied to the pet’s skin, not just on the fur. Also be sure to choose a dog product for dogs and a cat product for cats. Some dog products can be dangerous if applied to cats! Once the product is applied, any adult fleas on your pet will be killed within 12 hours and the flea’s life cycle has been interrupted.

However, there is a whole population of immature fleas hiding in your home while they mature into new adult fleas. It can take as little as 21 days for them to grow into adult fleas after hatching from an egg. These fleas will appear on your pet, which may seem like the product isn’t working. You may even see more fleas on your pet than before. The topical prevention will kill these fleas before they have a chance to bite your dog and reproduce. This begins to reduce the size of the infestation in your home.

As long as the pet is on a topical flea preventative consistently, applied every 30 days, the product will stop flea reproduction and control an infestation in about 2-3 months. Severe infestations may take longer to fully destroy.

You can help reduce the population in the home environment by taking some specific steps. All furniture should be vacuumed. All floors (carpet or wood) should be vacuumed. Throw the vacuum bag away after vacuuming. All linens and anything pets sleep on should be washed in the laundry if possible. Treating the house with a flea spray will also help kill fleas in the environment. Be sure to follow the directions on the product!

In summary, here are the key points to remember when dealing with a flea infestation:

All pets in the household must be on topical prevention
Prevention must be applied every 30 days
You will still see fleas on your pet, but they are on their way to being dead
It can take 3-6 months to fully control an infestation
Environmental control is also very important

And most importantly: It only takes ONE flea to start an infestation! Prevention is always better than treatment.

555px Ctenocephalides canis

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Filed under fleas, guest, parasites

Cold Weather Doesn’t Mean Bugs Are Dead!

The incredibly warm winter we had last year, coupled with the high heat this summer, has created a bumper crop of bugs for Fall 2012. We’re finally getting some relief from the heat, but that’s not exactly the best news for pets and parasites.

It’s tempting now that the weather is cooler, especially at night, to assume that the risk for fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other parasites is over with. This is absolutely not the case! It’s still vitally important that pets continue their parasite prevention products. Here’s why:

Fleas start looking for warm bodies when the weather gets colder. They don’t survive in cold temperatures if they’re exposed, but they can easily overwinter on animals. They can also survive in cool temperatures in the house for long periods of time. Once we’ve had a couple of good, hard frosts, it’s safe to assume that the flea population outside has -decreased-, but it’s not safe to say it’s eliminated. Contact with pets, wild animals, or infested houses/buildings can allow fleas to get a foothold on your pet and house in the wintertime. We advise staying on topical flea/tick prevention year-round exactly for that reason. Frontline Plus and K9 Advantix II provide great protection against fleas and ticks.

Mosquitos can also be found indoors as the weather cools off. I’ve killed two in my own house in the last few days. Mosquitos put dogs and cats at risk of getting heartworm disease. Heartworm disease can be fatal in both dogs and cats. Cats are especially hurt as we don’t have an effective way to treat heartworm if a cat contracts the disease. The risk of transmitting West Nile Virus is also a human health risk. Be sure to have your screens in good repair and be watchful for mosquitos in the house. Heartgard Plus, Triheart Plus, and Advantage Multi all protect pets from heartworm disease.

Some intestinal worms can survive in colder temperatures, though most are killed by freezing. The eggs, however, can survive winter conditions outside. When the weather isn’t cold enough to have the ground frozen, dogs are at a much higher risk of exposure by getting mud on their feet. They may lick their feet, which inadvertently allows them to ingest the eggs found in soil. There’s always the risk of contracting parasites from another animal’s feces, too. Yes, that’s a disgusting thought, but dogs eat a lot of disgusting things. Keeping your pet on monthly heartworm prevention also provides protection against various internal parasites. Heartgard Plus and Triheart Plus both protect dogs from hookworm and roundworm infections. Topical Advantage Multi protects dogs from hooks, rounds, and whipworms.

Colder weather isn’t a good justification for slacking off on parasite prevention. Pets and people are still at risk of infections and infestations by parasites and the diseases they can carry. It’s far better to stay on the prevention than to try to fix a problem after it shows up.

Snow dog

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West Nile Virus Found In Oakland County (Thursday News Early)

WARNING FOR EARLY WNV ACTIVITY

The Michigan Department of Community Health Bureau of Laboratories has confirmed the first human West Nile virus (WNV) case for 2012 in a 44 year old male from Oakland County. He was hospitalized earlier this month and is now at home recovering.

Michigan and other Midwest states are experiencing early WNV activity, likely related to the unusually hot and dry summer. The risk of mosquito-borne disease is likely to remain high this summer. Residents should be reminded to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites throughout the summer and fall months in Michigan.

View Additional Information on West Nile Virus and Prevention

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Of Mange and Mites

I’m going to sneak in a “by request” post this week. I didn’t have an opportunity to photograph a spay procedure on Wednesday, but as soon as I can get an image set together, I’ll post that. The topic today will be “mites.” While there are a ton of different mites, I’m going to show you the three we deal with most commonly. The first two are seen primarily in dogs, and the third in cats.

Demodex (Red Mange)

Demodex mites (Demodex canis) are allays found in the skin of dogs in small numbers. They live in the hair follicles and oil glands. Humans have a couple of varieties of mites, too, that live in eyelash/eyebrow follicles. People and dogs don’t trade Demodex back and forth. Dogs generally don’t infect one another with mites, either. The body usually keeps the population under control so that there aren’t any problems. In some patients, the immune system can’t keep the mite population under control. When mites overpopulate, they damage the hair follicle. Hairs fall out, causing bald patches (usually a circular spot). These patches really aren’t itchy at first. However, the follicles are damaged and inflamed, so secondary infection sets in. This bacterial infection causes a lot of itching, swelling, scabbing, and oozing. Dogs can have these small spots spread all over the body, too. That’s called Generalized Demodicosis. Here are some pictures of the mites and the skin of an affected dog. Notice the cigar-shaped body of the mite.

Demodex Milbe adult

Demodexdog

We diagnose Demodex taking a scraping of the skin to examine under the microscope. We apply a little mineral oil to the skin, squeeze the skin to push the mites out of the follicles, then scrape the skin with a special little spatula. We have to scrape deep enough to get some bleeding: it ensures that we’ve obtained material from inside the follicles where the mites hide. We examine that under a microscope to look for mites or mite eggs.

Demodex is treatable. The spots of hair loss can be treated with an ointment called Goodwinol. It contains a naturally substance called rotenone that kills Demodex mites. (Interestingly, rotenone is used by indigenous tribes to kill fish for food.) Dogs that have the generalized form have to have special baths/dips with a drug called amitraz. Amitraz does have some side effects: drowsiness, drooling, and loss of appetite. Most are very temporary. If they’re severe, they can be treated with an antidote. Treating generalized Demodex can take months. Some patients need to have dips forever to keep the infestation controlled. Alternative treatments include use of ivermectin or milbemycin (the ingredients in heart worm prevention) on a daily basis for 3-8 months.

Cats have their own type of Demodex. We treat much the same as in dogs. I think I’ve only seen one or two cases of this in the last 7 years at Pet Authority.

Sarcoptes (Sarcoptic Mange)

Sarcoptes scabei is a very different problem than Demodex. These mites are highly contagious, so affected animals can give mites to animals contact. Boarding facilities, kennels, groomers, and the vet’s office are common places for exposure. Two to six weeks pass before dogs show signs of infestation. The mites burrow through the skin, leaving behind substances and eggs that cause dogs to have an allergic reaction. Affected dogs are insanely itchy. They literally can’t do anything but itch and scratch and chew. Their hair falls out, the skin gets crusty, may have a rash, and both dogs and owners are miserable. The most common sites for lesions are the ears, elbows, and hocks (ankles).

Here are pictures of the mites and the skin damage they cause. That’s a red fox, which normally has a fluffy tail and bright orange hair coat. The poor guy is a mess! Dogs look this way or worse when they have scabies.

Sarcoptes scabei
Sarcoptesmmite
Sarcoptesfox

We diagnose Sarcoptes by attempting a skin scrape. Scrapes are not done as deeply as when we’re looking for Demodex. Scrapes find Sarcoptes only 50% of the time. This is one of the very diseases we diagnose and treat based on the examination and history.

This is a zoonotic disease! You can catch sarcoptic mange from your dog. The rash is usually in a limited area, and as long as the dog is treated, the human infestation will go away without treatment. Sometimes people do require treatment by a dermatologist.

Treament is very easy. There are topical medications (Revolution/Selamectin), injections (ivermectin), dips (amitraz and lyme sulfur), and oral medications (milbemycin). Most patients are cured within a few weeks. We also treat patients with antihistamines and steroids to reduce the itching.

Otodectes (Ear Mites)

This mite affects cats more than dogs. Ear mites are officially named Otodectes cynotis. They live in the ears and cause intense itching. They also leave behind a very crusty, sticky black material that is distinct from other types of discharge we see in ears. These mites are highly contagious among cats and from dogs to cats or vice-versa. If a household has more than one pet, all of them need to be treated. Fleas can also carry mites and eggs from pet to pet and into the environment.

The mites are visible with an otoscope when we examine the ears. We take a q-tip sample from the ear and inspect the debris under the microscope. It’s easy to see these mites. They’re similar to the Sarcoptes mites in appearance. Thankfully, these are easy to diagnose. Here’s a picture of the mites and the ear discharge.

Otodectes

Otodectesear

Otodectes are easy to treat. Topical medications (moxidectin, selamectin, ivermectin) are all very efficient at killing these mites. We to treat for 3-6 weeks. The only trouble is that these mites can live in the environment, and once in a while they are found on the animal’s body as well as in the ears. The topical medications we use for flea control work for treating mites anywhere on the body. Environmental treatment is also advised, which includes vacuuming/washing and application of an insecticide.

That’s the tour of the microscopic critters that can infest pets! It’s honestly one of the grosser things to investigate. Parasites are exceptionally good at doing what they do. In a clinical way, it’s fascinating, but it’s also enough to keep you awake at night! The best way to prevent all of these disgusting passengers on your pets is to keep them healthy and protected by a topical flea prevention and/or flea/heartworm prevention product.

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Thursday News

This week I want to share a great resource for dog owners that have social dogs. Trips to dog parks, daycare, friends’ homes, campgrounds, and similar places can put dogs and people at risk for contracting a wide variety of parasites or other illnesses. The AVMA has put out an informational handout detailing many of the risks and how to protect your dog. It’s well worth the read!

This is a link to the AVMA page that introduces the guidelines.

You can download a PDF of the whole set of recommendations here.

Have a good weekend! Be safe!

607px Dogs roughhousing by David Shankbone

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ProHeart 6

Proheart6
This week I’m going to tackle a controversial type of heartworm prevention. The hospital is considering the 6-month heartworm prevention injection for regular use again (ProHeart 6). This product was temporarily pulled from the market in 2004 due to concerns about safety. I’m going to spend some time today going over the history on ProHeart 6 and sharing some research data that examines the weight of any concerns about adverse reactions to the product.

ProHeart 6 is a specialized medication that allows the slow release of its active ingredient from the injection site over 6 months. The active ingredient is moxidectin. That same medication is found in Advantage Multi (made by Bayer Pharmaceuticals). The product was initially introduced by Fort Dodge in 2001. Fort Dodge had gone through all of the required FDA studies to have the product licensed for use in the US. Proheart 6 didn’t show any significant adverse effects, so it was put on the market. Veterinarians began using it extensively within a very short time. Millions of doses were administered all over the US. Many other countries also used ProHeart 6, including those in Europe, Asia, and Australia. In some places, ProHeart was licensed for 12-month protection (the dosing was different in those places).

Any time a new medication is released, a far larger number of patients receive it than during the safety and efficacy studies. Inevitably, this wide range of patients is a different population than in the safety studies. Dogs that may have had other illnesses, dogs of various ages, a wider range of breeds, use of the drug when vaccines are administered, other concurrent medications, etc. are all factors that contribute to differences ‘in the field’ as opposed to in the lab.

Concerns began to show up that ProHeart 6 was causing severe and serious reactions. These reactions included liver damage, autoimmune anemia, vomiting, anaphylactic reactions, and in some cases, deaths. The internet exploded with web pages (many of which are still up if you search) discussing the thought that “Proheart 6 is killing dogs.” At that time, no one was sure whether there was merit to this association or not. Bear in mind that there’s a difference between association and causation.

Fort Dodge voluntarily pulled ProHeart 6 off the market in the US in 2004. The equivalent oversight boards in most other countries did NOT recommend a recall of the product. Only South Korea took it off the market. Canada did NOT take it off the market. Four million doses were given in Australia. Europe had 3 million, and Japan 2 million.

A study published in 2005 used data from the Banfield vet hospital chain to examine whether ProHeart was associated with any increased risks, more reactions, or was causing deaths. The study used data from 1.93 million dogs, which is a very large sample size. It compared reactions from 2 oral heartworm preventions, ProHeart 6, and vaccinations.

This study led to a LOT of interesting comparative results. Overall, though, ProHeart was not implicated as a reason for increased rises in illness or disease or major reactions. The death rate per 10,000 encounters was NOT higher with ProHeart 6 patients, with or without concurrent vaccines. Concurrent drug use (NSAIDs, steroids) were associated with increased risk. There was an increase in some one type of cancer with dogs that received ProHeart 6 (mast cell tumor). The highest increase in problems came from pets receiving vaccinations. That may not surprise you if you slogged through the immunology posts with me! 🙂

The FDA allowed ProHeart 6 to come back on the market in 2008. As far as I’m aware, no change was made to the formula. Some very specific rules were placed that limited the types of patients that could have ProHeart 6. Pets had to be under 7 years old to get the product. Bloodwork had to be done BEFORE getting ProHeart 6. It had to be given on a separate visit from vaccines. Caution was advised for any dog with other types of allergies. Any animal with a history of weight loss could not get ProHeart 6. Vets had to have a 1-hour training session online and pass a small test to be allowed to order ProHeart 6 for use. We briefly used it at Pet Authority at that time, but clients were not very interested in jumping through all of the hoops, so we stopped offering it.

At no time did we see severe reactions to ProHeart 6 (even before it was recalled). We had no deaths that we can attribute to ProHeart 6.

Recently, Pfizer bought Ford Dodge. Pfizer now owns and manufactures ProHeart 6. The conditions I described above no longer HAVE to be followed, though Pfizer is, of course, recommending that veterinarians carefully choose which pets get ProHeart 6. We don’t routinely vaccinate animals that are sick or debilitated, so ProHeart 6 won’t be given to patients who shouldn’t be getting it, either.

We’re very likely to start stocking and offering ProHeart 6 again at Pet Authority. We feel the product is safe, and it’s a tremendous asset for some clients and patients. Only about 46% of clients remember to give their dogs heartworm prevention every month, so ProHeart 6 gives us an opportunity to make sure those dogs aren’t at risk. We’ll discuss the risks and benefits with all clients, the same way that we do for any other medications we give.

If you’re interested in that study that used the Banfield records, click here.

If you’d like to see the 2008 “Risk Minimization Action Plan” by Fort Dodge for the reintroduction of ProHeart 6, click here.

If you’d like to see the ProHeart 6 web page, click here.

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Flea Alert!

The bugs are on the muscle! We’ve seen a huge surge in flea cases in the past few weeks. I’m not sure if that’s because of the cold snap or just normal seasonal changes, but yikes!

While fleas might seem like an annoyance at worst, they can actually cause a number of very serious problems. One of the most dangerous has to do with the fact that fleas drink blood.

If you recall from the entry about blood samples and labwork back here, blood is “soup.” The red blood cells comprise, on average, about 30-50% of the blood’s volume. It’s lower in puppies and kittens. Average adult dogs run between 37 and 55%, generally. This percentage is measured with something called a packed cell volume, or PCV. This diagram indicates that the PCV is simply a percentage of the amount of red cells compared to the full volume of blood. In this diagram, the PCV is 46% (0.46).

500px Packed cell volume diagram svg

In a heavy infestation, fleas can drain a smaller pet’s blood to the point that the number of red blood cells decreases to a dangerous level (anemia). The fleas are drinking down cells faster than the bone marrow can replace them, so the eventual result is that the anemic pet can’t carry enough oxygen in the blood to keep itself alive. Severe flea anemia can kill a pet!

There are also additional complications that can result from a heavy flea infestation: infection with blood parasites called hemobartonella and babesia, as well as autoimmune problems can all have a link to flea infestations.

Patients with flea anemia can be saved with aggressive care. Usually, a blood transfusion is given to replace the red blood cells. Transfusions tend to take the patients out of critical trouble, but of course longterm attention to flea control is needed or the newly replaced cells will be consumed by the fleas.

Topical products that safely kill fleas are the best way to go. Vectra 3D, K9 Advantix, Frontline Plus, and Advantage are all good products.

I do not recommend the store brand products, nor do I recommend Hartz or Sargents. Flea baths can be dangerous for a wide range of reasons. Some flea collars are alright, but unless they’re used correctly (which they usually aren’t), they’re not very successful.

Preventing flea infestations in pets and your home is easy to do and relatively low-cost. Given the trouble and expense of treating your home and sick pets, it’s a bargain to stop the parasites before they gain a foothold. Just remember that ALL pets in the household need to be protected with a flea-control product to stop a home infestation from occurring.

Here’s hoping we can keep a Flea-Free Fall in sight!

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