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H1N1. The “Swine Flu”. Are you vaccinated against it? The government thinks there’s a couple groups of people who really should be; the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, healthcare employees, etc. etc. These people are at a high risk  of being affected by the virus due to exposure or decreased immune systems.

Did you know that your dog can get the flu? It isn’t H1N1, it’s called H3N8. From here on out, I’m going to call it “CIV” or the “Canine influenza virus”. The CIV is a subtype of the Influenze A virus that is endemic to birds, horses and dogs. The most recent outbreak has been blamed on horse racing tracks in the southern states of North America. It is believed the horses passed the virus on to the greyhounds that race at those tracks, and then go on to be shipped all over the country in the racing circuit.

Outbreaks have spread through many states now, including Virginia and Pennsylvania.

So what are the signs of CIV?

*Cough

*Runny nose

*Discharge from the eyes

*Fever

*Loss of appetite

*Weakness and lethargy

**BUT be warned… these are symptoms of more than one illness that can     affect dogs.

How is H3N8 diagnosed?

H3N8 is difficult to test for due to the series of shedding the virus goes through. Essentially, the best way available is to test respiratory secretions or blood from the sick animal. Ideally, it is best to test 1 sample as soon as the animal falls ill and a second sample 14 days later.

How is H3N8 treated?

Just like the flu that it is. For animals that are stable, antibiotics can be used to try to lessen the severity of infection. For animals that are not stable, supportive care is offered in the form of fluid therapy and monitoring. Once the animal is infected, the virus needs to run its course.

One of the most important things to remember is PREVENTING the continued spread of the virus. Once your animal has been diagnosed with the disease- take measures to prevent it from being spread to other animals.

How do I prevent my animal from spreading the virus?

Limit the exposure of other animals to your pet- This may mean isolating the animal from other animals all together. If you have to walk your dog to a park to relieve themselves, try to do it at the least busy times- but remember- your dog does NOT have to have direct contact with another animal to spread the virus.

Clean, clean, clean- Clean. Clean your home thoroughly with an antibacterial cleaner before you allow friends and family to bring their animals over. Soak dog toys in a safely diluted bleach solution. If you have plastic food and water bowls- throw them out and get stainless steel (which is a good idea, anyway…). Wash any pet bedding in colorsafe bleach and hot water. If your dog sleeps on the furniture, spray the furniture with an antibacterial product. If the dog sleeps on your bed- wash your sheets in the same way you do pet bedding.

What can I do to protect my dog?

In July, 2009 a CIV vaccination was released. You can talk to your vet about getting your dog vaccinated. As a general rule, any dog that gets the bordatella vaccine should get the CIV vaccine as well. Any dog that is exposed to other animals (boarding kennels, training classes, dog parks, pet store visits, etc) should be protected. The vaccine has an initial protocol of 1 vaccine, followed by a booster in 3-4 weeks. Yearly protocol can then be followed like a normal vaccination.

***Note: The vaccine does NOT offer 100% protection from the virus. Unfortunately, unless your dog lives in a bubble, it may still be exposed to the virus. The vaccination is designed to LESSEN the severity of the virus if it does infect your animal. That means, it will help to keep the symptoms more manageable and shorten the duration of the virus.

If you have further questions about the virus, please contact your vet or visit the Intervet Schering-Plough webiste @ http://www.doginfluenza.com/.

How true! But what is this post about? Age. I’m sure you have all heard the adage that 1 dog year is equal to 7 human years, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that is wrong. It doesn’t make any sense and I don’t know why people think it.

If 1 dog year was equal to 7 human years, it would mean at 2 years old- which is when your dog is considered an “adult” developmentally, it would be the equivalent to a 14 year old person. Now if you have ever been 14, had a 14 year old child or even known someone who is 14- you know that a 14 year old human is NOT developmentally an adult. Right? On the other end of the spectrum, I have more than one dog in my practice that is 20 years old. 20 times 7 is 140. How many 140 year old people do you know? Unless Methusala is your uncle, I’m pretty sure I made my point.

So how do we compare? Well, it isn’t nearly as consistent as the “7 year rule”, but it’s a lot more accurate and it will help you to relate to your four-legged friend better.

Dog Years        Human Years

1 Year     =          15 Years

2               =         24

3               =       28

4               =         32

5               =         36

6               =          40

7               =         44

8               =         48

9               =         52

10            =          56

11             =         60

12             =          64

13            =         68

14            =          72

15            =          76

16            =          80

17            =          84

18            =          88

19             =          92

20            =          96

They come in many forms.  None of the forms are fun. Parasites can be easy to prevent, easy to test for and easy to treat- if caught soon enough. If not, these sometimes microscopic demons can wreak havoc on your companion- and can even pose a threat to humans of the house.

First, there are different types of parasites. Some are internal and some are external. Fleas, ticks, mites, and mange are all examples of external parasites. We will be discussing external parasites… internal parasites can be handled at another time- because there are too many to mention on just one post.

fleaThis is a flea. A flea is a tiny, wingless insect thriving in warm, humid climates. Depending on your geographic location, fleas may be a seasonal or year-round issue. Flea infestations in some areas can actually be severe enough to cause anemia and even death from secondary infection. Adult fleas are brown and about the size of a sesame seed. Since there may only be a few fleas on your pet, some people actually detect the “flea dirt” before they see fleas or signs of scratching. Flea dirt is tiny black specks on the animal, which is the flea’s fecal matter. Flea dirt is largely noticeable around the ears and neck of an animal, but as the infestation continues it can be seen everywhere. An adult female is capable of producing and dropping up to 50 eggs each day, so the best treatment for fleas, like any parasite, is prevention or early detection. Carpets, bedding, and furniture can become breeding grounds for flea eggs unless they are cleaned regularly.

Unfed tick on (L), engorged tick on (R)

Unfed tick on (L), engorged tick on (R)

Ticks. Ticks don’t have a fan in the world. Ticks find a host, bury their heads into the skin and suck as much blood as they can. Ticks are capable of spreading dangerous diseases such as Lyme or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Tick infestations severe enough can cause anemia and death, which has been known to happen to puppies of stray dogs in places like Arizona. Ticks are most often found on dogs on the ears, face, neck, between the toes and between the legs and body. On cats, ticks are generally found on the face and neck. To decrease the chance of you or your pet contracting a disease from a tick, treating your pet with tick preventative is important. Once tick season has begun, brushing your pet regularly will help you find ticks that may find their way onto him or her. Once you find a tick on your pet, immediate removal is key. When removing a tick, the best way to do so is by pulling it off with tweezers or a cotton ball. DO NOT USE RUBBING ALCOHOL, PETROLEUM JELLY, OR A HOT MATCH! These remedies can cause the tick to salivate into the open wound which will increase the possibility of infection.

MITES. There are 3 different types of mites that can call your pet “Home”…

ear-miteEar mites can cause serious problems if left untreated. They can cause permanent damage to the inner ear and ear canal, which control the balance of your pet. It may result in your pet having sores in and around the ears from constant scratching, secondary infections, or an inability to walk correctly or balance themselves. Treating ear mites is very simple. Either you can go to your vet & pay up to $20 for a bottle of medication- Or, use an ear dropper and plain ol’ mineral oil and take car of the mites almost immediately at home- without the $45 office visit.

scabiesThis is sarcoptic mange. Also known as “Scabies”. This mange affects dogs of all age, and are highly contagious. They can be transmitted through contact, bedding and even grooming tools. These mange mites burrow through the top layer of the dog’s skin and cause severe itching. This causes generalized hair loss, bleeding and crusting of the skin. Many times secondary skin infections develop because of the inflammation. People who come in contact with the skin of an infected dog may also develop a rash, and should seek medical attention immediately. Sarcoptic mange is the more difficult mange to cure. Dogs need medication and their environment must be cleaned and sanitized routinely. It is also a good idea to keep the animal isolated as much as possible from other animals and people until the mange is gone.

demodexDemodectic mange mites are largely a problem only in dogs. These mites are microscopic and not very contagious. It is possible, though, for a mother dog to pass them to her pups. These mites tend to be localized to areas of the body and tends to appear as patches of red, dry, scaly skin around the eyes, mouth, legs and trunk. Unlike other types of mange, demodectic mange can actually be an indication of an underlying medical problem, so it is important to seek the help of a licensed veterinarian. When caught early, the mange is generally cured with proper diet, exercise and medicated shampoo. However, if localized mange is allowed to spread to generalized (demodecosis), it can be difficult to treat and treatment may only actually result in controlling the condition instead of curing it.

Harp Seal Hunt

Harp Seal Hunt

Completely outrageous. Canada has released the quota for the 2009 Harp Seal hunt, which is now at a staggering 280,000. The new quota is an increase of 5,000 compared to last year, and 10,000 compared to 2007. It is still, though, 55,000 lower than 2006.

Here are some myths and facts relating to this barbaric, cruel, death sport.

1. The Seal hunt is humane.

Wrong. Please, visit www.stopthesealhunt.organd watch the videos of actual seal hunts in progress. Please, judge for yourself how humane you think the methods are. Seals are clubbed, and very often are not dead when skinned. Veterinarians have provided ample information to the Canadian government and hunters to make the hunt more humane, and their recomendations have been ignored.

2. The seal hunt is sustainable.

The Canadian government quota for seal hunts is actually considerably higher than scientists believe would be acceptable to keep the populations sustainable- and even their quotas are allowed to be exceeded. A recent study by IFAW scientists found that the current management approach risks depleting the harp seal herd by as much as 70% in the next 15 years. Since 1995, harp seals have been killed at levels similar to those that caused a dangerous decline in the past, and the DFO now admits that the population has decreased. Environmental issues are also affecting the population of the harp seal. For example, government scientists estimate that in 2002, 75% of the seal pups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence died due to a lack of ice before the hunt even began.

3. The hunt is closely monitored and well managed.

Year after year, IFAW hunt observers encounter seals that have been clubbed and left to suffer on the ice, bleeding profusely, crying, breathing and attempting to crawl.  These are not “reflexes” as the DFO claims, which are easily recognized and familiar to experience seal hunt observers. During 2006, the DFO claimed to have had 12 monitors for the Gulf hunt, the largest enforcement effort ever.  Yet sealers in one region were allowed to take three times their quota without any consequences.  In fact the Total Allowable Catch has been exceeded in four of the past five years. That doesn’t sound well managed to me.

Please visit www.stopthesealhunt.orgto help out. IFAW has worked very hard since the 1960’s to stop this cruel, unneccesary hunt- and have made progress with their efforts. For example, in 1985 they got a law passed to ban white coat seals (seals younger than 12-14 days). Every vote of support counts- and you may be able to do more than you think.

The term “neuter” is actually unisex, though some refer to altering as “spaying” a female and “neutering” a male. Altering your pet is important a wide variety of domesticated animals, which is sometimes unknown by pet owners. For instance, it is extremely important to neuter rabbits that are kept as pets, to prevent ovarian and prostate cancer which is almost always fatal to animals. In fact, only 50% of dogs that get ovarian, breast or prostate cancer are able to recover with treatment, and only 10% of cats. The numbers are far fewer for rabbits because it is not as closely monitored or treatable. If you want to know whether you should have your pet neutered, please consult your veterinarian, or send us an email to juliet.parrish@gmail.com. If I don’t know the answer, I will be more than happy to find out for you. Now, here are the Top 10 reasons EVERYONE should neuter their pets (that should be neutered).

10. Your pet does NOT need to have a litter for your child to enjoy the “miracle of birth”.

Letting your pet produce offspring that you have no intention of keeping is a terrible lesson to teach your children. Our youth needs to be taught about the importance of responsible pet ownership, and what better way to teach them than to explain what altering is- and even taking them to a shelter to show them how vital it is.  Showing your kids that you respect your pet is a lesson that will stick with them much longer than witnessing a live birth. There are lots of books and movies that can teach them that- and it’s much cleaner, too!

9. Spaying or Neutering will NOT make your pet fat.

Over-feeding and under-exercising your pet will, though. And chances are if your pet isn’t getting enough exercise you aren’t, either! Monitor your pets food intake, and take your dog for walks daily. Also, talk to your vet about what types of food you should be feeding, and how much. Many people buy a food bowl and assume they should just fill it to the top. Your vet will be able to discuss your pets activity level and assess how much food you should be giving them based on how much they burn. For example, a dog who helps a farmer herd cattle needs far more food that our bulldog who spends his days lounging on the sofa (although the bulldog would tend to disagree).

8. It will likely help the behavior of your male.

Unaltered males have very high levels of testosterone. Testosterone is the hormone that makes George of the Jungle beat his chest. By neutering your male, you lower those levels, which lowers his sex drive and can lower his prey and aggression drive. Please be aware, this does NOT mean you do not have to properly socialize your dog if you have them neutered. You still much socialize your pet starting at the youngest age possible to ensure they will react well to other dogs they may meet. But, altering does help to lower that level of sexual frustration and aggression.

7. Your spayed female will not go into heat.

A female in heat can be a huge pain for pet owners. Female dogs will bleed which will result in a) Ruined sofas, chairs and bedspreads or b) your dog wearing diapers (which are NOT easy to get on). Female dogs will also urinate more frequently, which increases the risk for even a house-trained or litter-trained animal to relieve themselves elsewhere in your house. Female cats in heat are known to “meow” intensely, mostly at night, and female cats will howl to attract a mate.

6. Your male dog will be less inclined to roam from home, and your Tom cat will be less likely to get into fights with the neighborhood stray.

The only thing that will keep your dog in your yard is a fence, but if your dog does not have so much sexual frustration- he won’t go sniffing out that female dog in heat. Male dogs can actually smell a female dog in heat from up to 2 miles away! November is the worst month for automobile accidents involving whitetail deer in the northeast part of the US. This is not coincidental. It is because nearly 50% of the whitetail rutting season is in November. Rutting is the season of heat for whitetail deer, and bucks have been known to run right onto highways because they can smell a female on the other side. This same scenario could happen to your dog if he goes running after the scent of a female in heat.

5. It is highly cost-effective.

Go to http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/spayneuter for a comprehensive spay and neuter database. The cost of even a full price spay or neuter through a private veterinarian is very small in comparison to the cost of having an unwanted litter, caring for them and then finding them homes. Altering is a one-time fee that saves the money from having an unwanted litter and the cost of medical problems that can be avoided with altering. When considering whether to get a pet, this is one cost you should remember when deciding whether you can afford to care for a pet properly.

4. Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life.

Uterine infections, breast cancer and ovarian cancer can all be prevented through spaying your pet. Spaying your pet before her first heat cycle provides the best protection from these diseases. Your female does NOT need to have a heat cycle for any proven medical reason, contrary to popular myth.

3. Neutering provides health benefits for your male.

If done prior to 6 months of age, neutering eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer.

2. Neutering your pet is good for the community.

Stray animals can cause serious problems in our community. They can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, spread disease to household pets and cause harm to humans.

1. Spaying and Neutering helps to fight pet overpopulation.

Pet overpopulation is a huge and growing problem in our country. Shelters are full of homeless animals, which is a huge moral and financial burden on our country. It costs local governments up to $100 to catch, feed and ultimately destroy a homeless animal through animal control. It costs on average only $50 to spay a female dog and $45 to neuter a male dog. The prices fluctuate based on the dogs weight, but it is still lower than it costs to destroy a litter of unwanted pups. One cat and her offspring can produce up to 400,000 kittens in 7 years.

And Hey, it’s not that bad. Check out Baxter at 6 months old. He just got neutered today, and aside from the funny looking collar to keep him from licking, he is feeling great! (Frenchies always have that expression).

Baxter the French Bulldog, 6 months old.

Baxter the French Bulldog, 6 months old.