All posts by Ned Caldwell

Pet Disaster Preparedness

Recently, a client asked that I participate in a local disaster preparedness expo.  He explained that there was a tremendous amount of information regarding human survival and little if any information for the survival and well being of his beloved family pets.  After the tragedy and adversity that our neighbors in Joplin have recently endured, I agreed to participate.   I have relied upon personal experience and summarized some notable  information from both the ASPCA and FEMA.

Effectively preparing for a disaster requires anticipation and real attention to detail.  If there was one goal that I could accomplish, I would like you to start anticipating what you’re next disaster will be like for you, your family and your pets.  The more detailed your plan, the better prepared and the greater likelihood you will survive the challenge.

I am not a Disaster Preparedness Expert, just a veterinarian.  The closest thing to a natural disaster for my family was the ice storm in the winter of 2007.  Like most who live in Southwest Missouri, our family was without electricity for 6 days.  Many families endured weeks before power could be restored.  The real challenge of this disaster was just keeping warm, because everyone endured single digit temperatures in the days immediately following the storm.  Because our home depends upon a well for a source of water, no electricity means no water.  Fortunately our business never lost electricity, so we had another location with a supply of the essentials to keep us going.       Since then, I have always thought of “Filling the Bath Tub with Water” as an acronym for disaster preparedness because had I filled our bathtubs with water before we lost electricity, I would have spent more time on keeping my home warm, rather than hauling water from our veterinary hospital.  The key to preparing for life’s next “ice storms” means anticipating our needs and organizing our supplies and equipment – working out the details – before the disaster occurs.

Borrowing trouble comes more natural to some folks than others, so if you’re not good at that, I want you to start by thinking outside the box, because each type of disaster requires different measures to keep you and your family, and pet’s safe.  Will you be able to stay in your home or will you have to evacuate?  If you can stay, will you have electricity, running water or food?  What will the weather be like?  Hot, or cold. Will the roads be safe for travel?  Flooded or ice covered.

Because everyone in my extended family lost power and heat, and my house had the only functional wood burning stove, everyone stayed at our house.  This included all the beloved pets from a family that inspired me to become a veterinarian.  After several days of close living quarters, stoking the fire, and hauling water to flush 4 toilets, my best recollection was my nerves were worn pretty thin – like my father-in-law like to say, “company and fish start to stink after 3 days”.  That was the same day the wood stoves door was left open and the flu was still closed filling our house to the rafters with smoke.

Looking back, this was only a minor “hic-up” in a week of Man vs. Wild – Arctic Survival 101, but at the time it was pretty darn aggravating.  So what did I learn?  Things are going to happen in your survival situation that you just can’t plan for.  Plan to adapt.  You can’t change the tide, so be ready to “suck it up” and roll with it.  Sometimes no amount of preparation will get you completely through the storm. Plato said it best in 400 BC “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”

Now for the details that could keep your pets out of hot water.  I believe this step can be applied to almost any situation.  Start your planning with some research, phone calls and record keeping.  Keep your research stored in a safe place and keep copies in an evacuation bag with your pet’s essential supplies.  For most of us, keeping an accurate record of our house pets is no challenge, but if you have a farm, having an accurate record of your livestock inventory will help you your neighbors track them in a disaster.  Record a list of ailments or medical conditions, medications and special foods will help you maintain the health of your animals.  Simply contact your veterinarian for a copy of your pet’s medical records.  Also collect Names, locations and phone numbers of your veterinarian, kennel and any other caregivers should be at your fingertips.  Your veterinarian can help you with a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.  Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster homes for pets and identify hotels or motels inside and outside your immediate area that accept pets.  Ask friends and relatives in and outside your area if they would be willing to take in your pet.  Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.  We recommend micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. A microchip is implanted in the animal’s shoulder area, and can be read by scanner at most animal shelters.  My last homework assignment is for you to prepare a rescue sticker or sign that can be posted in windows in case you have to evacuate without your pets.  These help rescuers workers identify and locate all your pets after the disaster has occurred. If everyone evacuates, write “EVACUATED” across the posted sign, if time allows.

Remember, leaving your pets behind is absolutely the last option. If it’s not safe for you it’s probably not safe for your pets.  They may become trapped or escape to life-threatening hazards. Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it’s important to have a predetermined shelter for your pets BEFORE the disaster strikes.  Our empty veterinary hospital’s kennel filled beyond its brim in the time span of 4 hours on Saturday morning while ice accumulated on trees and power lines.  Many of our clients who had not even lost power, were booking hotel rooms in Branson and further south in Arkansas to wait out the worsening weather condition.

The next step is to start carefully considering a designated care-giver before the disaster strikes. Your choice could change depending on your circumstance, so consider and speak with several.  Look for someone who is home, when you’re at work so they can watch your pet and even offer swapping shifts watching their pets.  Look for someone who lives close to you, a neighbor or family member. Sometimes a long drive in bad weather is not practical.  Especially with a pet who doesn’t like to travel in the car.  It might be someone you could trust with the keys your home, or someone who is willing to bring your pet into their home.  If you don’t ask, you won’t know and don’t just assume like most pet owners that, “everyone just loves my pet, after all, how couldn’t they?”  Some people have allergies to pets, and more will be less willing to take on a pet during a stressful situation.  Perhaps finding a neighbor or family members who already have pets is your best solution.  Last but not least, consider someone as a permanent caregiver in the event something should happen to you.

Now it’s time to gather your emergency supply inventory.  Let’s start with the essentials, food and water.  Plan for a minimum 7 day supply of both food and water.    The food should be rotated in accord with the manufacture expiration dates, but in general, don’t keep dry kibble longer that 2 months.  Plan on your pet eating 1 cup or can of food for every 20 lbs of ideal body weight.  A 60 pound dog will need 3 cups of dry kibble or 3 cans of dog food every 24 hours.  You average size cat will require ½ cup of dry kibble in a day.  Store 1 oz of water, for every pound of body weight, every 24 hours.  That same 60lb dog will require a half gallon of water in 1 day.  Another important item for you list is a pet first aid kit.  The ASPCA offers a complete kit $50, and offers a complete list of items at aspca.org.  You may want to review the list and add items as needed to your own first aid kit.  Depending on your pets pre-existing medical conditions, owner should have a 2 week supply of prescription medication like insulin, anticonvulsants and arthritic pain relievers.  These medications should be rotated like food to ensure their effectiveness.  Other emergency items should include;

  • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans) for cats.
  • Supply of litter or paper towels for cats and pocket pets.
  • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant.
  • Disposable garbage bags for clean-up.
  • Pet feeding dishes.
  • Extra collar, harness and leashes.
  • Photocopies of medical records
  • Recent photos of your pets for identification or lost pet posters.
  • Travel bag or pet flight kennel ideally for each pet.
  • Head mounted flashlight
  • Blankets (pillow cases for cats or pocket pets)
  • Chew toys or rawhides
  • Evacuation pack for supplies

Some final considerations in the midst of the calamity that I should mention are that animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid.  Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis. Always bring pets indoors immediately at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. In addition, separate dogs and cats.  Even if you dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally.  In the event you take your pets with you, have a plan to pack your vehicle with family members, pet crates and supplies.  And remember, if you think you may be gone for only a day; assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks.

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Are Heartworms Winning the War?

Microfilaria in blood of dog

For many years we have been fighting a battle against heartworms. We have great products on our side to prevent this disease, but recent findings about heartworm resistance have many pet owners and veterinarians concerned.

Heartworm disease has been known to veterinarians for more than 120 years. The heartworms are transmitted from any of more than 70 known species of mosquito, and the disease attacks the pulmonary arteries and right side of the heart in dogs.  Heartworms are spread directly to the dog from the mosquito, with no dog-to-dog transmission. 

For more than 4 decades, heartworm disease has been effectively prevented in dogs by using available products.  But recent research indicates this might be changing. At a veterinary conference in 2010, information was released detailing a genetic mutation in heartworms that appears to confer slight resistance to current preventives.  Anecdotal reports in the last 4-5 years also point toward an increase in heartworm prevention product failures in the Mississippi delta region of the U.S.

While lack of efficacy (LOE) to heartworm preventives remains geographically limited, research is ongoing to determine the extent of this problem.  Historically, the LOE was attributed to poor owner compliance in the geographic area, the effects of Hurricane Katrina, increased heartworm numbers within the mosquito vector, and/or the increased sensitivity of heartworm testing.

Two prominent veterinary groups, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) and American Heartworm Society (AHS) concluded at a recent council strategy session that most credible reports of LOE are geographically limited at this time.  In addition, the extent of this problem is not truly known.

The lack of conclusive evidence to LOE could also be due to several factors:

• Poor Owner Compliance.

o Are pet owners accurately following the veterinarian recommendations?
o Is the pet given the preventive medication consistently without missing or delaying any treatment?
o Is the pet ingesting the medication? (vomiting, pets spitting out or hiding the medications, swimming or bathing immediately following application can cause a missed treatment).

• Imperfect Clinical Testing & Education
o Dogs with inconsistent heartworm testing are at greater risk and must be tested more often.
o Delayed maturity of heartworms can potentially indicate a “negative” antigen test.  This may lead to a false sense of security with dog owners and reluctance to retest.
o Heartworm tests may also have become more sensitive (i.e. more accurate), than older generation tests.  

Whether there is indeed resistance to heartworm, this same study group (CAPC and AHS) concludes: “The potential for lack of efficacy of traditional control products is not a reason to abandon their use.  ” They place additional emphasis on the importance of annual heartworm testing.

Although research into heartworm resistance is on-going, the veterinary industry does recognize the dire consequences if resistance is confirmed.  The American Heartworm Society will continue to support and monitor research in this area.  And if resistance is confirmed, changes to preventive and therapeutic strategies may need to be implemented in the future.

Key recommendations for veterinarians include:
• Proper use of current heartworm preventives remains effective in the vast majority of dogs.
• Prevention strategies should not be abandoned.
• In the case of confirmed heartworm disease, stage-specific medical management should be implemented.
• CAPC and AHS guidelines should be followed in the “face of reports of lack of efficacy”.

Key recommendations for dog owners include:
• Annual testing for heartworm disease; more often if preventives are missed or high risk. 
• Don’t vary from label directions on the dose and frequency.
• Make sure the dog ingests the medication.
• Reduce exposure to mosquitoes
• Get examined by veterinarian immediately if symptoms appear in your dog…i.e. persistent cough, exercise intolerance, body wasting.
• Follow veterinary recommended treatment if dog is diagnosed with heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is a complex issue.  Until more is known about the extent of the issue, pet owners should trust that current heartworm products are still the best choice for prevention in the vast majority of dogs.

No matter where you live, following your veterinarian’s recommendations and giving heartworm prevention every month, year-round as well as annual testing gives you the peace of mind that you are protecting your pets.

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Welcome to DVH blog

2850 S. Ingram Mill Road

Welcome to our hospital. A short introduction of the authors and our workplace seems appropriate for our first post, so here we go folks!

Dr. Denise Caldwell and Dr. Ned Caldwell, her husband and business partner, established Deerfield Veterinary Hospital in 1992. Dr. Ned is a native of Springfield and attended Glendale High School. Dr. Denise was born and raised in St. Louis, but now calls Springfield home. They both met at, and graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia, College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Dr’s Denise and Ned met associate veterinarian Dr. Craig Bendickson at a continuing education meeting in Branson and he joined them at Deerfield in 2003. The three doctor team has accumulated nearly 70 years of veterinary practice experience.

Technology and veterinary medicine have dramatically changed over the last 20 years and we continue to transform and innovate. The hospital is fully networked with wireless patient monitoring systems, diagnostic laboratory and digital x-ray. At www.deerfieldvet.com clients can email their doctor, schedule appointments and access their pet’s medical records. Hospital pharmacy showcases Southwest Missouri’s most competitively priced prescription medications. In 2009 the hospital team achieved accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). We believe you will find our team committed to providing you the highest quality of care for both you and your pet.

Drs. Ned and Denise divide their time between their profession, volunteer efforts in our community, with Rotary and the Junior League and their family. They are parents of two wonderful elementary school aged daughters, two Siamese cats, a French Bulldog,13 chickens and a peacock named Steve.

We hope to inform and with a little luck, entertain. So please join us, we welcome your comments, and thanks for spending your time getting to know us.

Drs. Ned & Denise

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