April 8, 2019

Preventive Healthcare for Pets


What, Why, and How

by
Christiane Youngstrom, DVM

Heartworms

Heartworms are parasites transmitted by mosquitos that inhabit a dog’s (or rarely, a cat’s) heart. Over time, as they grow and interfere with heart function, they cause heart and lung disease, which will ultimately be fatal if not treated.  

There is an effective treatment, but it does have risks, and the damage that has already taken place cannot be undone. Therefore, it is MUCH better to prevent disease than to treat. Monthly preventatives are very effective in preventing any microscopic parasites introduced by a mosquito bite from surviving long enough to infect the heart. 

We carry monthly Interceptor Plus, and recommend that all dogs receive it year-round.  

While many people in colder climates only treat during the warmer months, the American Heartworm Society recommends all pets be treated year round, in order to reduce the risk of early or late-season transmission. They also recommend annual testing (in-house blood test), so if a lapse in coverage did occur, treatment can be started before the heart and lungs get damaged.

While it is possible for a cat to get heartworm, it is rare, and preventatives are often only given to cats in areas where heartworm is extremely common (southern States). Effective monthly heartworm preventatives also exist for cats; the one we carry is topical Revolution, which also kills fleas, ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms.   

Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites can infect dogs or cats via contact with other animals, fleas, or with parasite eggs present in the environment. Any pet that goes outside is at risk of picking up intestinal parasites, even in winter!  

The most common intestinal parasites seen in dogs and cats are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. These inhabit the intestines, causing inflammation and discomfort and robbing our pets of nutrients.  

Some of these parasites are also zoonotic, meaning that people can contract them. In particular, roundworms can migrate into the human eye and brain, causing blindness and irreversible brain damage. Routine deworming is especially critical in homes with children!

We recommend an annual fecal parasite exam for all dogs and outdoor cats, even if they are on a monthly dewormer year round, as there are some less common parasites that are not eliminated by broad-spectrum dewormers. If one of these parasites is identified, the appropriate medication can be prescribed to eliminate the infection.   

Interceptor Plus treats roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms in dogs. We recommend all dogs receive this medication monthly year-round, as they can pick up these parasites at any time, even in winter. Conveniently, this product also prevents heartworms!

Profender treats roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms in cats. This topical medication is easy to apply and avoids the struggle often involved in orally medicating cats. All cats that go outside should be periodically dewormed—ideally on a monthly basis, but at least quarterly. 

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas cause pain and itching, and heavy infestations can make a pet anemic. They transmit tapeworms and serious diseases, such as plague, feline leukemia virus, and many of the tick-borne diseases.  

Ticks transmit multiple life threatening diseases, including Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, and Lyme Disease. 

At a minimum, a flea and tick preventative should be given early spring through late fall, when populations are highest; year-round prevention is ideal, as fleas and ticks do survive in lower levels on wildlife and inside sheltered environments (barns, etc.) through the winter.  

For comprehensive flea and tick protection in dogs and cats, we carry Bravecto, which kills fleas and ticks before they can transmit these dangerous diseases. As an added plus, this medication also treats ear and skin mites. It is formulated as an oral chew for dogs and a topical for cats. A single dose is effective for 12 weeks. 

We also carry Nexgard, a very similar medication which lasts for only 1 month, for growing puppies, since they might outgrow their Bravecto dose before the 3 month dosing interval is up. This is usually not a problem once they reach 6 months old, so at that point they can go on Bravecto.

Dog Vaccines

blood syringeDHLPP: This is a Core vaccine, recommended for all dogs 

This is given as initial series of 3 doses, 1 month apart, starting at 8 weeks old (until 6-8 weeks old, maternal antibodies in a puppy’s bloodstream prevent a vaccine from working); dogs older than 6 months with no/unknown vaccine status only need two doses one month apart. 

The “D-H-P-P” components need to be given every 3 years, but the “L” (Leptospirosis) component only lasts 1 year, so a separate Lepto-only vaccine can be given annually between the every-third-year DHLPP’s, or the full DHLPP can be given annually.

Protects against:

veterinarian vaccinating dogDistemper: A viral disease that attacks the respiratory, GI, and nervous systems.  Spread by saliva and respiratory fluids from infected dogs or wildlife (esp. raccoons). Because it circulates in wildlife, outbreaks surface all across the country regularly. Usually fatal to unvaccinated animals. 

Hepatitis: A viral disease that attacks the liver, kidneys, and eyes. Spread by body fluids from infected dogs. Often fatal.

Leptospirosis: A bacterial disease that attacks the liver and kidneys. Can be cured if diagnosed and treated early enough, otherwise it is usually fatal. Transmitted by contact with water and soil contaminated by body fluids (especially urine) from infected animals (rodents, raccoons, skunks, deer, other dogs). It used to be thought of as a disease of hunting dogs, but we have seen it here in Billings in small breed “house dogs” who contracted it in their backyard. This disease is transmissible to people and can be life threatening! 

medical shots for animalsParainfluenza: A viral disease of the respiratory tract, can cause fever, cough, and nasal discharge; spread by respiratory fluids. Can lead to pneumonia in some cases.

Parvo: A viral disease that attacks the GI tract and the immune system. Extremely contagious; transmitted by feces and contaminated objects and environments—can survive on surfaces and in the environment for months. Often rapidly fatal in puppies, and can also be fatal to adults.  

Rabies: This is a Core vaccine, and is required by law.  

The first dose a dog receives is only good for 1 year, regardless of age (they must be at least 12 weeks old). After the 1-year booster, it only needs to be given every 3 years.  

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system. Spread by contact with saliva or other body fluids, often through a bite. Carried by bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and other wildlife. 100% fatal to animals and humans once symptoms develop. Zoonotic—can be transmitted from a dog or other animal to a person.

veterinarians caring for dogBordatella: This is a non-core vaccine. It is recommended for all dogs that come in contact with other dogs or with environments frequented by dogs, such as dog parks, daycare, boarding, groomer, etc. This is an oral vaccine that is given annually. This bacteria attacks the upper respiratory tract and is spread by respiratory fluids. It is very contagious, and can lead to pneumonia in some cases.  

veterinarian gives oral medication to dog

Canine Influenza: This is a non-core vaccine.  It is recommended for all dogs that regularly come in to contact with other dogs or with areas frequented by other dogs (dog parks, daycare, boarding, groomer, etc.)  It is given as an initial series of 2 shots 1 month apart, then annually. This extremely contagious virus attacks the respiratory system, causing fever, cough, nasal discharge, lethargy, and inappetance. In some cases it progresses to pneumonia, which can be life-threatening, especially for puppies, geriatric dogs, and any immune-suppressed individuals. Two strains exist in the US, and the vaccine we use here protects against both.  

veterinarian giving rabies shots and vaccines to dogsRattlesnake Vaccine:  This is a Non-core vaccine, recommended for dogs who spend time in areas where rattlesnakes may be encountered. There is an initial series of 2 doses 1 month apart, then it is given annually. It is important to administer it at the beginning of rattlesnake season, as protection wanes over the course of 12 months. In Montana, this is usually given in April or May. If a dog is bitten and envenomated by a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, the venom causes severe swelling, impaired blood clotting, low blood pressure, and multi-organ dysfunction. This is treated with antivenom (antibodies against the toxin) and plasma transfusions. The vaccine stimulates the body to produce antibodies against this venom, and if a vaccinated dog is bitten, these antibodies will neutralize some of the venom, decreasing the severity of its effects. Urgent veterinary attention is still necessary, but usually the patient is in better shape and will not require such intensive treatment as an unvaccinated dog.

Cat Vaccines

rabies vaccineRabies: This is a core vaccine, and is required by law.  

The first dose a cat receives is only good for 1 year, regardless of age (they must be at least 12 weeks old). After the 1-year booster, it only needs to be given every 3 years.  

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system. Spread by contact with saliva or other body fluids, often through a bite. Carried by bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and other wildlife. 100% fatal to animals and humans once symptoms develop. Zoonotic—can be transmitted from a dog or other animal to a person.

FRCP: This is a core vaccine, recommended for all cats

kitten vaccination

This is given as an initial series of 3 doses 1 month apart starting at 8 weeks old (until 6-8 weeks old, maternal antibodies in a kitten’s bloodstream prevent a vaccine from working); cats older than 6 months with no/unknown vaccine status only need two doses one month apart. It is boostered 1 year later, then every 3 years.

Protects against:

Rhinotracheitis: A virus (feline herpes) that targets the upper respiratory tract, eyes, and throat, causing ocular and nasal discharge and swelling, inappetance, and lethargy. This can be life-threatening, especially to kittens. Many cats are carriers, and shed the virus through respiratory secretions during occasional flare-ups. While the vaccine does not prevent infection in all cases, it helps the immune system to keep the virus in an inactive state, and reduces the duration and severity of flare-ups.  

Calicivirus: A virus that targets the upper respiratory tract and the mouth, often causing oral ulcers. Causes inappetance, nasal discharge, fever, and can progress to pneumonia.  Transmitted through respiratory fluids.  

veterinarian with cat
Dr. Youngstrom, Animal Clinic of Billings and Animal Surgery Clinic veterinarian

Panleukopenia: A virus that targets the GI tract and immune system, related to canine parvo. Also called “feline distemper” or “feline parvo.” Causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and lethargy, and can be rapidly fatal, especially to kittens. Transmitted through feces and contaminated objects/environments.

cat shots and vaccinesFeLV:  This is a non-core vaccine. It is recommended for all cats that go outside, have housemates who go outside, or who live in a house with an infected cat. This is given as an initial series of two doses 1 month apart, then boostered every two years. FeLV is a virus that interferes with immune system function and dramatically increases a cat’s risk of developing lymphoma. Transmitted though saliva, often from cats grooming each other. Primarily a risk for cats who go outside, and for indoor cats who have an infected housemate.

Let our highly trained and experienced team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians help you keep your dog as happy and healthy as they can be.

Call the Animal Clinic of Billings to schedule your dogs next wellness examination with us today!

406-252-9499

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ANIMAL CLINIC OF BILLINGS AND ANIMAL SURGERY CLINIC

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1414 10th St. West, Billings MT 59102

406-252-9499

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