All posts in Canine

New Research Alters Debate on Heartworm Preventative Resistance

The latest study on heartworm preventative resistance spotlights the most important factors in preventing this condition in the Ozarks.  Clarke Atkins DVM, DVM, DACVIM, professor of veterinary medicine and cardiology at North Carolina State University just completed his study in the Mississippi River Delta.  This area is a hotbed for heartworm disease and has been the recent focus area for studies on the resistant MP3 heartworm.

His study suggests that dog owner’s failure to purchase and administer preventatives every 30 days plays a larger role in canine heartworm disease than resistance to heartworm preventatives.  He also adds that current research does not point to any particular product being more effective than another.

His study does not disprove the resistant MP3 strain, only that administering medications in a timely manner (every 30 days) is the most important factor in preventing this parasite in the dog.

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Deerfield Veterinary Hospital First To Offer Stem Cell Therapy to Pets in Springfield

Early in my professional career, I was advised to avoid publicly discussing three controversial subject matters; politics, religion and money.  Of late, the term “stem cells” could certainly be added to this short list of contentious topics.  Weekly, we see news reports and read editorials on the uses of human embryonic stem cells and the moral-ethical questions surrounding the collection of these powerful cells. There are, however, new breakthroughs in the science of regenerative medicine that draw on the use of adult stem cells, harvested not from embryos but from an adult’s own body.

Research now teaches us that stem cells are an important part of a healthy body’s defense and regeneration process.  Simply put, we could not thrive without these primitive repair cells.  Just as embryonic stem cells have the ability to grow into a completely new human or animal, adult stem cells have the ability to change and differentiate into bone, cartilage, muscle or any tissue in the body.  Recently, a detailed study on the use of fat-derived stem cells in dogs showed that animals receiving stem cells demonstrated a significant improvement in lameness when compared to dogs in the control group.  In clinical trials, over 80% of pet owners report improvement after therapy.  This news has excited veterinarians and pet owners alike and has many asking about the potential for a real world application.

More than 15 million (20%) dogs in North America suffer some form of degenerative joint disease, better known as osteoarthritis (OA).  Unfortunately, many dog owners are completely unaware of the pain their pet is experiencing, chalking up the slow movement to the effects of “old age”.  Some dogs may receive daily doses of pain relievers and oral joint care supplements.  Still others might find their way to physical therapy or rehabilitation.  But for some, any or all of these options are not enough to relieve the pain.  Sadly, many owners decide to euthanize their faithful companion because of the severity of the pain or the continued high cost of on-going treatment.

Adult stem cell regenerative therapy is now an accepted treatment for OA and is available for both dogs and cats.  Deerfield Veterinary Hospital is pleased to be the first veterinary hospital in the Ozarks to offer stem cell therapy.  All of this seems pretty miraculous and for some pets, the results are truly nothing short of a life-saving miracle.

If you are trying to decide if stem cell therapy is right for your pet, please consider the following. Not all pets are considered good candidates for this therapy.  Since anesthesia is involved in both the cell collection step and the reintroduction of the cells, this may not be ideal for all patients.  Additionally, any dog with serious systemic disease, such as cancer, might not benefit from these treatments.  Even though there has been great feedback from owners, this is not a one shot therapy.  Some pets need to return regularly for follow-up treatments.  Scientist report that over-exertion after treatment seems to lessen the benefits of the treatment, often leading to another trip to the veterinarian.  Finally, cost will certainly come into play as owners and veterinarians discuss this option.  Prices will vary among veterinarians, but in general, plan on spending at least $3000 to $3500 for initial treatments.

Arthritis can be painful and even debilitating in any dog or cat.  If you suspect your pet suffers from this disease, talk with us about testing to confirm arthritis and then discuss the many treatment options.   We will recommend a multi-modal approach to pain relief, combining appropriate medications, controlled exercise, weight loss, and environmental changes to make your pet’s life easier.  In some cases, new technology, like stem cell therapy, can be beneficial!

This video segment from ABC’s Nightline in 2008 reviews the process of harvesting and transplanting stem cells in pets.

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Do Generic Flea Products Meet Your Pet’s Needs?

For a long time, flea control consisted of harsh products that were related to nerve gases of World War I. Many of these carbamates and organophosphates worked well at killing fleas, but unfortunately, they weren’t very safe for pets and had the potential for severe toxicity. Then, about fifteen years ago, modern chemistry helped give us safer topical flea treatments. Because fleas, ticks and other parasites are medical problems that need educated medical recommendations, the companies producing the new products chose to sell these flea medications only through veterinarians.

Fast forward to present day and you can find many flea products both over the counter (OTC) and through veterinary or “ethical” channels. Annual sales of flea and tick medications exceed $1 billion and there are many companies eager to get their share of the pie.

Recently, the compound, fipronil became available for generic use. The original patent holder, Merial, produces an excellent flea product (Frontline®) that was our main choice for many years. Now, no less than 15 “generic” fipronil flea products will be offered in the OTC markets.

What does this mean for you and your pets? Can you feel comfortable with generic flea medications?

First, let’s look at what a generic medication is. When a specific pharmaceutical company develops and patents a new drug, they are allowed the exclusive rights to sell that drug for a period of time. When the patent expires, other companies can then market their own products that use that drug. Since the generic companies don’t have any research and development costs and very little advertising is needed, their costs are much lower and, therefore, their selling price is also lower.

Although generics utilize the same active ingredients as the original, they are not exactly the same product – and that is very important to know. Different inert ingredients that are generally recognized as safe may be included. In the case of flea medications, these inert ingredients are usually the carrier molecules, or what helps spread the medication across the pet’s body. The FDA requires that generic manufacturers prove their product exhibits bioequivalence to the original product.

In the case of topical parasiticides, many of these products are actually regulated by the EPA instead of the FDA. This means that a veterinarian’s prescription is not necessary to purchase the product, although, as mentioned above, most of the original pharmaceutical companies chose to sell their product “under veterinary supervision”. The generic manufacturers do not have that same belief and the new copycat flea products will be found on shelves of Wal-Mart, Target and other big box stores across the country.

So, if the product is essentially the same and at a lower cost, is it ok to buy these over the counter flea preventives?

Fleas, as well as other parasites, can cause a host of medical problems that go beyond simple itching. Serious diseases can worsen if the issues are not handled properly. In a general merchandise store, you will not find anyone with the expertise or training you’ll find at our hospital. Not to mention someone to call should your pet have an adverse reaction to any topical treatment.

Believe it or not, it might be more economical and more convenient to purchase the preventives through us at our hospital. Not only can you get all the products (flea preventive, heartworm preventive, etc) at one location, some of the ethical products sold can actually help with other parasite diseases.  So, a single product could be the answer for your pet instead of several that end up costing more.

We will also provide a single dose of the flea product instead of the six pack you find at the store. It’s another way we can help you save money!

It’s also important to note that the federal government has actually ordered multiple manufacturers of these generic flea products to remove some products from store shelves.

We understand that your pet is unique and may not tolerate certain products as well as others. We hope our medical advice has real value…especially since the wrong product used improperly actually have the potential to be fatal! We understand if there are other possible interactions between flea preventives and other medications your pet is taking.

Finally, our healthcare team  can not only show you how to properly use the products in question, but they will keep a complete record of what you have used in the past, taking the guesswork out and possible preventing future complications. And you already know we will keep track of your pet’s overall health and find medical problems early while they are still inexpensive to treat. We strive to be part of your pet’s health care team.

All of this valued information is not something you will get from a cashier at the grocery store or a display unit in a big box retailer.

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Leptospirosis –  An Old Disease Causes New Problems

The leptospira organisms enter the body through mucous membranes or through abrasions on the skin. People and animals can become infected from direct exposure to infected urine, but also through contaminated environment, such as water or damp soil.

People and pets are also exposed to Lepto while camping or participating in outdoor recreational activities. Drinking or swimming in water that is infected with Lepto is the most common exposure, but wet soil can be contaminated as well.  A city environment will not always provide protection against this serious disease.

The signs of Leptospirosis can mimic many other diseases and illnesses.  The first signs in dogs are often depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, and generalized pain.  Affected dogs may also drink water and urinate excessively and have swollen, red, and painful eyes.  Because these signs are common to other diseases and non-specific, owners may try to treat their pets at home for such problems as an upset stomach or arthritis.

This “wait and see” response delays proper diagnosis and treatment for the dog, as well as increasing the owner’s exposure to the disease.  If caught early, treatment is usually effective and the survival rate is good.  However, time is of the essence.  A mere three or four day delay can lead to irreversible kidney failure.

Vaccines are available but many pet owners have either experienced or heard about adverse reactions associated with these vaccines.  In the past, Leptospirosis vaccines were generally created using the whole bacterial organism.  In many cases, when a whole bacterium is used, the likelihood of a “vaccine reaction” increases.  Thankfully, newer vaccines have been developed that reduce this possibility by using specific Leptospirosis proteins instead of the whole organism.

A study reviewing vaccine reactions in more than one million dogs vaccinated found that reactions occur about 13 times for every 10,000 vaccines given.  More importantly, the lepto vaccine was no more likely to cause a reaction than any other vaccine.

So, if the vaccine appears to be safe and the disease deadly, shouldn’t all dog owners vaccinate their pets?

Unfortunately, that question is difficult to fully answer.  Because there are so many Leptospirosis strains, no one vaccine will cover every possible exposure a pet might have.  At present, vaccines are available that protect against four of the common strains infecting dogs.  In addition, the vaccine will prevent clinical disease, but may not stop the pet from shedding bacteria in his urine.  This makes the pet a threat to other animals, especially those who are not vaccinated.  And, as mentioned above, humans are at risk as well.

Worldwide, Leptospirosis is the most widespread zoonotic disease.  Cases occur routinely in tropical countries, but increases have been seen in Europe and North America as well.  Floods and hurricanes are instrumental in spreading this illness and coordinated efforts to rescue and re-home pets from these disasters might actually transplant lepto into new areas.

Protecting your pet from Leptospirosis is a complex situation.  Use your veterinarian as a resource to help assess your pet’s risk factors as well as the benefits and hazards of vaccination.  Other important steps that might minimize your pet’s exposure to this disease include removing animal pests, such as rodents and draining areas of standing water.

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The Down & Dirty on the Flea Battle

The most common type of flea in the U.S. is the Ctenocephalides felis…or the Cat Flea.  Despite its name, this species will feed from cats, dogs and even humans.  These wingless insects attack both people and pets and feed by drawing blood from their host.

While most people relate to the irritation of flea bites, fleas can transmit more serious diseases.  Flea allergy dermatitis is certainly the most common problem associated with fleas, but they can also transmit Bubonic Plague, tapeworms and Feline Infectious Anemia.

The challenge of winning the flea battle lies in understanding the flea’s life stages, then attacking all levels of the life cycle.

A single female flea can lay 20-50 eggs at a time, creating over 2000 fleas in her life span of three months.  With just 25 adult female fleas that equates to more than a quarter of a million fleas in only 30 days!

The non-sticky eggs fall off the pet, ending up in your carpeting, pet bedding or furniture upholstery. Outdoor environments such as leaf litter, lawn or mulch in moist and shady areas are also ideal environments for egg incubation.

Flea eggs hatch after 1-10 days (depending on the temperature and level of humidity) into larvae. These larvae feed off flea feces and debris, then molts three times in a 5-25 day period before spinning a cocoon (pupae).  The flea pupae then hatch in as few as 5-9 days to the fully formed adult….OR they can remain dormant for up to five months.

Adult fleas comprise only about 5% of the entire flea population. The remaining 95% consists of eggs, larvae and cocoons in the pet’s environment. It’s easy to see how the flea can quickly invade and even overrun your home.

Expert “Flea Guru”, Dr. Michael Dryden recommends a combination of products and procedures. The very important first step is a visit to your veterinarian. “You can beat the fleas, but you have to purchase the right products.” Flea products obtained from a veterinarian have been proven effective through rigorous testing. Topically applied products like Frontline, Advantage & Revolution have worked well in the battle against the flea as has the orally administered pills, Capstar, Comfortis and Trifexis.  With the rapid life cycle of the flea, the product must have a kill ratio of 90-95% to be considered effective. Anything less will not do the job completely.

Dr. Dryden continues “That’s not the case for (generally less expensive) over-the- counter products.  Natural and organic doesn’t necessarily mean safe. I’m all for green and saving the planet. But I am also all for using a product which is proven safe for my pets.”

Shampoos and collars are less effective and in some cases can even cause harm to your pet.  For example, the wrong dose of your dog’s flea product can have devastating and even life-threatening results if given to your cat.  It may sound silly, but the EPA estimates that this mistake happens thousands of times every year!

Once the flea does appear, Dr. Dryden promotes a 3-part plan.  The first step:  eradicate the existing fleas on your pet.  Proper product usage is very important and, remember, one dose won’t eliminate all the different stages.

Flea spray labelSecondly, it’s necessary to ensure that you have rid the premises of the fleas.  Use products that contain Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) to kill flea eggs and larvae.  Your outdoor environment may need to be professionally treated. You need to regularly clean the indoor areas frequented by your pets.

Treat ALL dogs and cats….not just the affected pet.  And all pets should be treated for at least three to six months to ensure total elimination.  .

Thirdly, prevent new infestations with lifelong flea control.  Using a veterinarian recommended flea product will kill all levels of the flea infestation. If the flea can’t reproduce, it will become extinct. However, if even one cycle of flea prevention is missed, the battle will continue.

Knowing how to combat fleas is really more than half the battle.  And although they are hardy little critters, we do have safe effective products to fight these bugs.  Ask your veterinarian for product recommendations and advice.

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