What it Really Means if your Pet is Overweight

Over a third of pets are overweight. Our pets don’t have to hunt for their food, and mindless snacking is easy when food is available all the time. Exercise, especially in the winter months, is in short supply. Not enough dogs get the opportunity for regular long walks or off leash romps with friends in the park which they need.

Cats lounge expertly, and need time and motivation to engage in hunting behaviors with a laser mouse or feather toy (moving their eyes while watching us doesn’t burn many calories). Many of us human caregivers show our love through food.

 

Obesity leads to increased risk of painful arthritis and orthopedic injuries, cancer, breathing problems, skin issues, and diabetes among other maladies.

 

Grooming challenges are common- I frequently see fat cats with matted fur and dandruff past their missing waists, and sometimes worse things crusted around their hind ends, because reaching around and cleaning that far is too hard! Chunky dogs develop moist skin folds that are predisposed to infection. Studies in many species show that obesity leads to a shorter lifespan. 

Cats and dogs should tuck in at the waist, and the ribs should be easily felt but not seen in most breeds. Losing excess weight and fat in pets means increasing calorie output (exercise) while decreasing calories taken in.

Pet foods have quite variable calorie counts, and each individual pet has different caloric needs depending on activity level, age, breed, and other factors. Cats can become very ill with fatty liver disease if they are forced to lose weight too quickly.

Your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is overweight, help determine the goal weight, and give you guidance on type and amount of food to feed for a longer and healthier life!


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Dr. Astrid Kruse graduated from Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. After completing a year long rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship, she joined the staff at a large general practice hospital on the North Shore, where she enjoyed forming long term connections with her patients and clients. She is excited to join the team at Domino Veterinary Hospital in Concord, MA! Her special interests include dog and cat internal medicine, preventative health care, rabbit and guinea pig medicine, soft tissue surgery, and dentistry in all species.

Intestinal Parasite Prevention

Medications to Prevent Yucky Stuff on the Inside

 

Our dogs live in a different world than us- unless you are crawling through grasses, sniffing hind ends, and licking things with an interesting odor. Dogs are exposed to all sorts of insects and parasites that we clothed, shod, upright and comparatively clean adult humans are not.

Some canine parasites are species specific and only infect dogs and wild canids, while others can also infect humans and in particular small children who often practice questionable hygiene. (I am the mother of small children and can attest to this, despite proper parenting- our handwashing song is sung to the Row Row Row your Boat tune: “Wash wash wash your hands, bacteria can be mean- E. coli, typhoid, salmonella, get those hands all clean.”) Parasite prevention medications help reduce the risk of illness to both our furry friends and their human families.

 

All dogs should be on monthly parasite control medication to keep them and their human families healthy. “Dewormers” are found in most monthly heartworm prevention medication for dogs.

 

Milbemycin (in Sentinel and Interceptor) is effective in controlling roundworms, hookworms and whipworms; pyrantel (found in Heartgard) is effective against roundworms and hookworms. All these worms can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and poor health in dogs, as well as anemia in the case of hookworms, which sink their 6 sharp teeth into the intestinal lining and drink blood. 

Humans are infected with hookworm by skin contact (like when walking barefoot) with contaminated soil or sand containing microscopic hookworm eggs, which survive for months in soil. The hookworm larva puncture and travel under the skin, causing itchy and unsightly worm migration tracks before eventually dying.

Humans are infected with roundworms through accidental ingestion of contaminated soil (fresh eggs are not infective)- the eggs can remain infective for years. The larva become confused in the “wrong” host (they wanted to be a dog or cat!) and travel around the body. In some people, especially children, the worms cause illness as they migrate through organs including the liver and lungs, and cause blindness if lodged in the human eye. According to the CDC, 14% of humans in the US have antibodies showing infection with roundworms.

Whipworms rarely infect humans. Picking up stool quickly, and washing hands before eating are good prevention strategies in addition to monthly parasite control medication for pets.

Heartworm is transmitted by mosquito bites. Mosquitoes feed on a dog or wild canid that is infected and suck up tiny larval worms. When the infected mosquitoes then bite another dog, the infective larval stage is transmitted.  The larvae mature under the skin of the dog, and migrate through the tissues of the dog into the circulation and end up as long, spaghetti-like worms in the blood vessels of the lungs and heart.

The heartworm disease incidence has been increasing in Massachusetts, along with the rest of the country, which is likely due to warmer weather, a huge number of bats dying from White-nose syndrome, and with the influx of the disease from rescue dogs brought up from the southern US. Heartworm infection in dogs is fatal over time if left untreated.

Death occurs by heart failure, bleeding into the lungs, worm embolism, or secondary kidney damage. Treatment is expensive and has risks; year-round prevention is much safer for your dog and better for the wallet. Rarely, heartworms infect humans but do not complete their life cycle- the dying larva will form a benign circular lesion in the lung which unfortunately looks like lung cancer or tuberculosis on scans, leading to invasive testing.

Humans are susceptible to infection with other related filarial worms, primarily found in Africa, that cause elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), river blindness, and eye worm (loa loa).

In sum: Ensure your dog is on a monthly year-round heartworm preventative that has deworming medication built in. Check with your rescue/shelter/breeder that your puppy has been dewormed every 2 weeks before bringing home the cute furry bundle, and follow up with appropriate deworming treatments at your vet.

Always pick up your dog’s stool (and promote “pick up after your pet” public health regulations). Wash your hands before eating or touching your mouth. And remember to wash your hands after touching humans or objects humans have touched, since fellow Homo sapiens carry many more germs that are dangerous to you than a well looked after dog!


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Dr. Astrid Kruse graduated from Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. After completing a year long rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship, she joined the staff at a large general practice hospital on the North Shore, where she enjoyed forming long term connections with her patients and clients. She is excited to join the team at Domino Veterinary Hospital in Concord, MA! Her special interests include dog and cat internal medicine, preventative health care, rabbit and guinea pig medicine, soft tissue surgery, and dentistry in all species.

Lyme Disease in Dogs in Massachusetts

Signs in dogs: lethargy, fever, limping, protein losing kidney disease/failure

Prevention: flea/tick prevention (chewable Nexgard), Lyme vaccination, daily tick checks, avoiding tick infested environments (tall grasses, fields, woods)

 

Lyme disease is caused by infection with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. The infection is transmitted by the bite of a black legged tick (deer tick). Although previously it was thought that if a tick were removed within 24 hours infection could not occur, it is now believed that Lyme infection can occur within hours.

 
 

Dogs do not develop the classic bulls eye rash after being bitten and it can take 1-4 months after being bitten by an infected tick for dogs to show signs of Lyme Disease.

 
 

Cats are not thought to develop Lyme disease; other non-human animals sickened by Lyme infection are horses, cattle, and small rodents and rabbits. 

Most dogs are able clear the Lyme organism and, although blood antibodies show previous infection, there are no signs of disease. Some dogs develop fever, lethargy, or limping from joint inflammation. Other dogs develop kidney disease (Lyme nephritis), caused by damage to the kidneys’ filtration unit by the immune response to Lyme, that allows protein to leak through. These dogs show no clinical signs of kidney damage until they develop kidney failure months or years later- this is why blood testing (and, if Lyme positive, urine testing) are so important for Lyme surveillance. This kidney disease, while medically manageable in the early stages, is not curable.

Dogs are resistant to the neurological and heart manifestations of Lyme disease that occur in humans. Canine patients that show clinical signs of Lyme or have a high C6 antibody level, or abnormal levels of protein in the urine, are treated with a course of an antibiotic. The infection is not always permanently cleared from the body by the immune system or with antibiotics, because the Lyme organism can hide within the body and from the immune system.

 
 

Preventing infection requires a multi pronged approach in a high risk area for tick disease such as Massachusetts. An effective flea/tick product should be used every month year round, because black legged ticks bite even during the winter. I have seen ticks on dog patients all through the winter, except when a thick blanket of snow is keeping pets and pet parents snuggled by the fire.

 
 

The monthly chewable Nexgard is very effective at preventing ticks from attaching long enough to transmit disease and is the product we recommend at Domino Veterinary Hospital in Concord, MA. Some patients may need a tick collar (Scalibor, Seresto) in addition, if they go into tick heavy environment (such as walks in the woods or tall grass), to give additional protection.

Lyme vaccination is a great tool in addition to tick control- this vaccine is given yearly and helps the immune system inactivate Lyme both inside the tick’s gut and in the dog’s body. Keeping dogs out of areas that are tick infested- high grasses, fields, woods- especially during the peak feeding season is helpful. Environmental control of ticks including spraying pesticides is an option but comes with possible risks. Tick tubes decrease local tick populations by giving mice, which are part of the deer tick’s life cycle, nesting material that is toxic to ticks.

All dogs at Domino have their blood tested yearly for tick diseases. A large number of dogs in this area test positive for Lyme and other tick borne diseases (predominantly anaplasma, occasionally ehrlichia). The Concord Massachusetts area’s beautiful hiking trails and open spaces that keep the dog population so active, lean, and happy are infested with ticks.

 
 

Over a 5 year course in Middlesex county, 691,400 positive Lyme tests in dogs were reported by Idexx, one of the two big veterinary labs.

 
 

It's important to protect your dog by using effective flea/tick prevention, checking them for ticks daily, keeping them (and yourself) away from high tick areas, as well as considering vaccination. 

Unfortunately ticks and all the diseases they carry are a growing concern. As a pet owner it is becoming more and more important that you have a preventive routine in place to keep your pet (and yourself and your family) free of tick related illness so they can live a healthy and happy life.


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Dr. Astrid Kruse graduated from Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. After completing a year long rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship, she joined the staff at a large general practice hospital on the North Shore, where she enjoyed forming long term connections with her patients and clients. She is now excited to join the team at Domino Veterinary Hospital in Concord, MA! Her special interests include dog and cat internal medicine, preventative health care, rabbit and guinea pig medicine, soft tissue surgery, and dentistry in all species.