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The Confusing World of Pet Parasite Prevention

According to PetsAndParasites.com, a website devoted to tracking the occurrence of parasites in our pets, the prevalence of deadly heartworms continues to cause problems.  More than 1% of dogs tested will be positive for heartworms in the US every year.  That’s almost a million pets suffering from a preventable disease!  Rates are even higher for parasites like roundworms, whipworms and hookworms!

Thankfully, we have had safe and effective parasite treatment and preventive products available for many years.  So, why are we still seeing so many cases? There are many theories.

Despite the claims of Internet sites who say rising resistance among heartworms or massive failure of preventives is to blame, the reality is probably a little closer to home.   Dr. Sheldon Rubin, a past president of the American Heartworm Society is quoted as saying that human error or forgetfulness is probably the biggest reason for pets developing heartworm disease.  His comments are echoed by research in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that reviewed cases of presumed heartworm preventive failure and found that owner compliance was actually much lower than originally reported.

Graphic of various pillsBut, an uncertainty among pet owners about which product to use (market confusion), as well as economic factors, are fueling at least some of the issue.  Generic heartworm preventives can now be found in many human pharmacies and online pet pharmacies are offering six to ten different medications to the public.  It’s frankly hard for a pet owner to choose.

Experts from the American Heartworm Society recommend giving heartworm preventive year round.  Just be sure you are using a prescription product that contains one of these known compounds; ivermectin, milbemycin oxime, selamectin or moxidectin.  Then your pet needs to receive a dose once monthly, every month, all year long.

Some of these medications are also effective against intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.  A few of these preventives are also now using compounds to treat tapeworms in addition to the other parasites.  It’s even possible to get heartworm preventive that also includes means to help control fleas!!

Part of consumer confusion is whether to buy the least expensive product or the one that covers every possible parasite.  Veterinarians do understand how this can be such a confounding problem.

In fact, certain parasites are less common in some areas of the country and your pet’s risk factors vary quite a bit.  These risk factors also include exposure to parasites through trips to dog parks, hiking or camping, interstate travel or even the presence of other animals in the household.

Veterinarian with petVeterinarians follow these trends every year.  They couple this information with their understanding of the different life cycles, knowledge of your pet’s specific medical conditions, the reputation of the drug manufacturers and your region of the country.  They are ideally equipped to help you more fully understand exactly which product provides the best parasite protection for your pet and your family.

Also it is so important for you not to fall for advice in online forums that recommend odd-ball alternative methods of protecting your pets against any parasite, but especially heartworm disease.  Many of these simply fuel speculation about diminishing effectiveness of heartworm preventives and they are not well researched.  These sites often misinterpret data or are actively promoting products that have not gone through proper testing and safety research.

This is an area of pet care where we have made great advances, but bad advice and a confusing market have created unnecessary risks and vulnerabilities. Trust your pet’s healthcare advice to your family veterinarian and team.  Trusted products from Deerfield Veterinary Hospital can be found at our hospital.  Our pharmacy is price competitive with most online and local big box retailers.  Call the hospital today to setup your account with Deerfield.

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Cats Often Overlooked for Veterinary Care

Experts believe that cats and humans have interacted with each other for more than 10,000 years.  From their humble beginnings chasing rodents away from our food, cats have vaulted into our homes and hearts as North America’s favorite pet.  Unfortunately, despite their popularity, cats aren’t treated to the same veterinary care that we provide our canine friends.

There are more than 80 million cats in US households and, after reviewing veterinary medical records, experts have concluded that our felines are actually 30% less likely to visit a veterinarian than dogs.  What could possibly cause this difference?

Cat with toothbrushMany people believe that a cat’s independent nature and their self-sufficiency mean that they are pretty low maintenance.  After all, owners don’t need to walk their cats in a heavy rain or freezing blizzard.  So, if cats are so good at taking care of themselves, they must not need a doctor, right?

Additionally, more than 50% of cat owners report that they have a difficult time transporting their pets or that the last trip to the veterinarian was too stressful for the kitty.  Still other owners express concerns about adverse vaccine reactions or costs of treatments and preventive care.

Not only that, but as small to medium sized predators, cats instinctually hide their illnesses to avoid become dinner for a bigger predator.  Owners can often miss the subtle signs that their kitty isn’t feeling well.

Insulin syringe and vial of insulinThe unfortunate result out of all of this is that when we do see cats, they are often faced with advanced problems that are more costly and difficult to treat.  Extensive kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes and even widespread parasites top the list of feline issues.  One study published showed that flea infestations in cats have increased by 12% in the last five years and ear infections are up more than 34%!

Thankfully, organizations like the CATalyst Council and the American Association of Feline Practitioners are stepping up to help educate owners about their feline friends’ medical needs.  By stressing the importance and value of preventive medicine, these groups are working hard to insure that cats aren’t forgotten when it comes to veterinary care.

Our goal is to help owners understand that a visit to Deerfield is more than just a couple of vaccinations for their cats.  A full physical examination done annually by our veterinarian is the first and probably most important thing a pet owner can do for their beloved feline.  This exam can often spot early issues before they turn into big, expensive problems.

Additionally, cat owners are urged to have open communication with our veterinarians about which vaccines their pet actually needs and which ones can be avoided.  We can review the cat’s risk factors and the overall prevalence of specific diseases in our area to make the best recommendation.  Although adverse reactions are always a risk, this dialogue can help minimize any potential danger.

We have implemented recommendations from the CATalyst Council to make our practice more “feline-friendly”.  Changes to scheduling, a separate entrance to the hospital, special waiting area and exam room for cats and their owners can help White Persian Catto encourage veterinary visits.  After all, no cat wants to be seated next to a big, scary dog!!

Cats have been described as “aloof” or even “narcissistic”, but there really is a lot to admire about these wonderful animals.  They are athletic, graceful and innately curious, qualities that we really seem to appreciate.  The CATalyst Council is a great resource for finding out how you can insure your cat will live a long and healthy life.

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Question and Answer on Generic Rimadyl

Our clients regularly ask us great questions regarding their pets.  This was question Dr. Denise answered via email in August of 2011 regarding the use of a generic carprofen (Rimadyl).

Dr. Denise,

Can you get me a prescription for the generic of Rimadyl? Spot currently takes Putney Carprofen Caplets, 75mg twice a day. Our current bottle has 180 caplets in it, non-chewable.

I can go on petmeds.com if you cannot order it but need the prescription from you, correct?

Thanks,

Jane

Hello Jane,

Yes we can certainly write you a prescription to order the Carprofen caplets.   My question is, are you using the caplets because they are less expensive or because Spot would not take the chewable Rimadyl tablets?

The reason I ask is that we competitively price our Rimadyl chewables in line with the generic carprofen tablets so that our clients have the ease of giving the chewable tablets rather than trying to hide the caplet in something every day.

If Spot would eat the chewable, you could use the Rimadyl 100 mg chewables and give 1 tablet in the morning and 1/2 tablet in the evening (which is equivalent to 75mg twice daily)  The Rimadyl chewable tablet is scored so it is easy to split.  The Rimadyl can be given only once a day (Rimadyl was tested with once daily dosing). However with a pet the age of Spot, I usually divide the dose up to get really good 24 hour coverage. If you went to the bigger size and gave 1 1/2 tablets total for the day rather than two of the 75 mg tablets a day you would end up saving money since you would be using less tablets each day. I’ve included cost comparisons below for you to look at – our hospital versus Pet Meds.

Pet Meds  Carprofen caplet  75mg  #180count  $178.44  ($1.00/tablet)    2 tablets a day = $2.00 a day  $60/month

Pet Meds  Rimadyl chewable  75mg  #180count  $215.19 Deerfield Rimadyl chewable  75mg  #180count  $194.00

Pet Meds  Carprofen caplet  100mg  #180count $188.94   ($1.05/tablet)

Pet Meds  Rimadyl chewable  100mg  #180count $236.19

Deerfield Rimadyl chewable  100mg  #180count $199.99 ($1.11/tablet)  1 1/2 tablets a day = $1.67 a day   $50.10/month

So you could go to the Rimadyl chewables, give 1 1/2 tablets a day and spend $10 less a month than the generics you are using twice daily. Now obviously if Spot won’t take the chewables then all bets are off and we will stick with the caplets. One last note, if we do go with the chewables be sure to keep them out of reach- some dogs have been known to “counter surf” to get to the bottle of chewables because they taste so good.  Unfortunately, that becomes a medical emergency.

Dr. Denise

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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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Online Pet Pharmacies – Saving Money or Risk to Your Pets?

With record numbers of families enjoying the benefits of pet ownership and online shopping, it should come as no surprise that the amount of money spent on our pets is huge.  Experts are forecasting that pet owners will spend more than $50 billion dollars annually.  A significant percentage of those expenses include veterinary care and prescription medications.  So, is it any wonder that buying your prescription medications online may also look like a good deal?

At first glance, online pet pharmacies would seem to be a great option.  The promise of lower prices and having the medication shipped to your door is a big selling point for busy, budget conscious people.  But, there are some pitfalls when relying on Internet based sources for your pet’s medication needs.

First, they all say you can “save a trip to the vet”.  Unfortunately, this is only partially true.  In order to prescribe and dispense medication to your pet, most states require that there is a valid veterinarian-client-pet relationship or VCPR.  This is usually defined as a veterinarian having examined your pet within the last 12 months.  If the VCPR does not exist, medication cannot be dispensed.

Some websites will offer to sell the drugs without a prescription. This is not only illegal but not in the best interest of your pet!  Websites that sell without needing prescriptions are most often based outside of North America, where pharmacy and drug laws may not be as strict.

The requirement for this professional relationship insures that you and your veterinarian have good, up to date facts about your pet’s health. Plus the medical records and history for your pet are all in one place.  The veterinary staff also knows your whole pet family and can help prevent problems when there are multiple pets present in the household.

Since pets are unique individuals, some may have unexpected reactions to certain drugs and some medications can even be deadly if given incorrectly.  Others may need a special formulation for ease of administration.  The online pharmacies will not know this information and this could be a problem if your pet is on several medications or has secondary conditions.

If a life-threatening emergency happens with a medication, your veterinarian is only a phone call away.  Some online pharmacies only allow contact through email and this will not help you if your pet needs assistance immediately!

Finally, despite many good businesses online, there will always be a few who are looking for a quick buck at your expense.  Avoid sites that offer dramatically lower prices than competing sites or your veterinarian.  Likewise, if you have ordered medication online, check the drug to make sure it looks similar to what you have given before.  If it looks different in any way, do not give it to your pet.

Illegal "Bootleg" product manufactured for Australia was purchased by a client from major online retailer.

The FDA is so concerned about this, it is now warning pet owners to be aware of shady online companies.  The National Board of Pharmacies has instituted the  e-Advertiser Approval Program to help you find properly licensed and compliant online pet pharmacies.  Only Eighteen companies nationwide have earned the right to display the e-Advertiser seal of approval, including Deerfield Veterinary Hospital.

Check with your veterinarian about online pharmacies.  Many veterinary hospitals now offer their very own store on their websites.   Often prices are competitive, and they are the same medications you purchase at the hospital.  Orders can ship directly from the hospital to your door, or you can choose to pick them up at the hospital without the hassle of waiting in line.

In addition, you will know who you are talking to in case of any problems or concerns.  Honest and open communication with your veterinarian about cost concerns will prevent misunderstandings about money and help you do what’s best for your pet.

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