Pet Health Issues
There are many health issues that may affect your pet. In this section we have provided an index to assist you in finding the information you need. Please be advised that these topics are general in nature and are not meant to be substituted for the professional advice of your veterinarian. If you need to find a veterinarian for your pets, please feel free to visit our vet locator to find one in your area. Through the vet locator service we offer more than 44,000 listings of veterinarians.
Parvo Return to Index
Parvo can strike a dog at any time in its life. Puppies younger than 9 weeks of age are at most risk and most danger of contracting this disease. Parvo itself is not what can kill the dog, but the symptoms can. Once dehydration has set in this is usually marked by decreased appetite, diarrhea, and then moves progressively to vomiting. All of which continue to lead to severe dehydration, shallow breathing, depression, and in most un-maintained cases, death.
The good news is, however, that once your dog survives Parvo it has an increased tolerance to the disease and some experts say that in some cases even a lifetime immunity.
The bad news is the longer it takes to recognize that your dog is in progressive Parvo, the more drastic the maintenance procedure in keeping them alive and many times the more costly.
It is possible to treat Parvo at home if the disease is caught early on.
It is important to treat all areas with 1oz bleach to 9 oz water ratio. This includes the yard and any where in the house your dog can reach that may withstand such a concentration of bleach. These areas include wood, linoleum, or tile floors, doorknobs, counters, etc.
All shared dishes should be washed in this solution and thoroughly rinsed or at a minimum be run through a dishwasher.
Humans cannot catch Parvo but we are probably one of the greatest transmitters of the disease. Humans carry it from dog to dog via petting, dog showcasing, walking in common areas, etc.
The greatest precaution one can take is to begin puppies of a litter on preventative shots as early as three weeks. Worming should also begin at this time. If one has an increased concern for risk of Parvo, they may follow up with this treatment at week 4-5 and again on week 6-7. These shots may be purchased at most feed stores or CO-OPs, etc.
If one begins to notice symptoms of Parvo it is important to begin to act promptly because death can occur within two to three days. Most dogs who make it through their progressive symptoms for at least 5 days or more will most likely survive.
Mixing a 1/2 proportional level of indigestion medicine in a moist dog food will assist in reducing gastric production and assist in hydration of the dog. A Tagamet-like liquid substance is often administered through injection by the vet and with special care may be attempted by the brave at heart right in the home. This may in some cases be acquired by your understanding vet if you ask to undertake this level of care yourself. It is of the utmost importance that this injection is placed in the muscle, because if you inject it into a vein this most surely will mean the death of your dog.
If the dog progresses into major dehydration it will be necessary to place the dog on an IV of 60-75cc of IV fluid per 1 lb. This fluid is placed underneath the skin along the neck and on each side of the spine and divided into approximately 4-5 locations. This will initially cause the skin to form large bubbles underneath the injected area, but that is okay. If leaking occurs when removing the IV needle one may pinch the exit wound and gently shake the water-swollen bubble to assist in fluid disbursement and body absorption. Although many dogs may recover within a 5-day period this procedure should be used as little as possible. The more often one has to resort to this procedure the more the skin becomes traumatically disturbed and there is an increased chance of large segments of skin falling off the dog which may lead to death itself and increase the potential of infection. It is our opinion that one should only partake of this over a 5-day period three times at the most unless obvious death will occur without treatment. If this IV induction is performed by a vet they will also administer antibiotics to the dog to assist with any potential infections. One should try to work with their vet to try and arrange an outpatient treatment intervention on days 2 & 4 and a follow up visit on day 5 or 6 based on the dogs progress. If the dog makes it this long it has a pretty good chance of survival.
As you go through this treatment period it may also be good to administer Tagamet or other acid-reducer proportionate to the weight of the dog as compared to a human's weight on the box. This can be as small as 1/4 pill for a puppy up to one full pill for an adult dog. One can often encourage the dog to take the pill by covering it with peanut butter or by mixing it in with a piece of soft food or ground beef.
During the time of treatment it is also good to try to get the dog to eat things high in moisture content. Dehydration is the biggest problem. Overcooked boiled noodles mixed with a little meat or moist food is good and is often taken eagerly by the dog. This will assist the dog in maintaining a higher level of hydration. This does not have all the nutrients the dog needs, however. After the dog is recovered it is very important to make sure that the dog gets the nutrients it needs which can often be found in high nutrient dog food able to be found at the vet and pet supply stores. Also one may look at getting a nutrient paste and using this during the treatment period. These pastes are also available at the vet and pet supply stores and can be applied directly into the dog's mouth.
Current preventative shots are reportedly not hindered by the maternal hormones given by the mother dog. There is a lot of out of date information on Parvo but would caution one to begin preventative shots as early as 3 weeks with regular follow-up and to treat all possible infected areas with the appropriate bleach mixtures.
Canine Distemper Return to Index
Distemper, which was first discovered in the early 1900’s, is a very infectious disease that causes death in 50% - 80% of all dogs that are infected. The younger the dog, the greater the chance of death.
For many years Distemper has been the most feared of all canine diseases possibly only surpassed by Parvo today.
Not only does Canine Distemper affect dogs but it affects other animals such as ferrets, seals, mink, weasels and their kin among the Mustelidae family as well as raccoons, pandas and other members of the Procyonidae family. It has even been thought to have been the cause of the deaths of a number of African Lions.
Distemper is an RNA virus from the same viral family that causes measles in humans. Although from the same family, distemper is not transmittable to humans. Although contracted by puppies, dogs of all ages are susceptible.
Diagnosing distemper can be difficult as it has many of the same symptoms as other illnesses. Some signs of distemper are transient fever, loss of appetite and mild depression as symptoms at the onset. Other dogs are affected by a systemic illness with nasal and ocular discharges, coughing, vomiting and diarrhea.
Seizures, behavioral changes, walking in circles and other ambulatory problems commonly develop. Many dogs who show neurological signs develop what is scientifically known as chorea - rhythmic motions or "tics". Dogs that survive both the initial infection and subsequent neurological disease may go on to develop retinal damage, corneal discoloration or extreme hardness of the skin of the nose or foot pads and sometimes even a lifetime of seizures.
Currently there is no cure for distemper. The only thing that can be done is supportive care and control of neurological signs. Often times when a dog is diagnosed with distemper it is advised that it be euthanized due to the lifetime of illnesses that they face.
Because distemper is present in every bodily excretion and can be spread from contact, human to animal transmission and even through airborne transmission, it is critical that puppies be vaccinated to prevent infection from occurring.
Vaccinations should begin at approximately 6 weeks. Because the mother’s milk often interferes with vaccination potency, a regular interval of shots should be given after the first dose and around week 9, 12, 16 and annually thereafter. Doing this will help insure that the dog receives the full value of the vaccination and is of minimal risk to contraction throughout its life.
Hip Dysplasia Return to Index
Hip Dysplasia is a debilitating disease that is similar in nature to human arthritis. This disease tends to be primarily genetic in nature and affects mostly large breeds of dogs. Although other animals besides dogs can also have this disease.
If a dog is known to be Hip Dysplastic it is imperative that they be spay / neutered so as not to pass on this negative genetic trait. Responsible breeding has the greatest impact on the prevalence of this disease. Along with not breeding a known Hip Dysplastic dog, breeders should also limit their levels of inbreeding. The greater level of genetic diversity any species has, the healthier that species is. Lack of genetic diversity is why many species have been placed on the endangered species list and in many cases have become or do become extinct.
Hip Dysplasia can severely effect some dogs’ qualities of life and not even show to be positive in review of their x-rays. Others may appear to have severe Hip Dysplasia on their x-rays but exhibit little or no symptoms.
In other cases a dog may be a simple carrier of the Hip Dysplasia gene yet it may never develop into the disease. If two such carriers breed, the potential for the disease actively developing in the offspring is significantly increased. Because inbreeding brings out the most recessive genetic traits it is easy to see how such practice can increase the odds of offspring developing the disease from seemingly healthy adults.
It is important to realize that if a dog is diagnosed with the disease the effects of the disease can be minimized through dietary control and exercise. Probably the best known exercise is swimming. This disease when mild may also be treated with various over the counter aspirin medications (NOT TYLENOL – especially in cats where it can cause methemoglobinemia).
When necessary, prescription medications can be used to manage the negative effects of Hip Dysplasia. Some cases, however, must be surgically repaired. When this is the case there are three primary options:
- Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
- Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)
- Total Hip Replacement (THR)
It is important that if this disease is suspected in any way that proper diagnosis be made. If positive, one should take the time to sit down with their veterinarian and discuss treatment options thoroughly. It is always a good idea to confirm the diagnosis through an unbiased second opinion by another vet. Treat your pet’s medical health the same as you would your own and get second and even third opinions if necessary. Your pet may survive a botched job from an unscrupulous vet, but at the same time their quality of life can be severely diminished if you are not careful.
Roundworm Return to Index
There are two different Roundworms. Their scientific names are Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina. The control and treatment of these worms are the same, but since Toxacara canis is the most common of the two types, we will focus our information here.
The adult Roundworm can achieve a length of up to 10 cm and live in the small intestines of the host dog. Upon entry into the intestines they are around 2cm but within ten days can grow 250+%, around 5 or 6 cm. For pups that are severely infected with these worms they will have a potbellied appearance. Because the worm affects the nutritional intake of the puppy another symptom that may be present is the development of a poor starting coat of fur. For some where this worm is very severe, blockage of the gut may occur, which can lead to death.
For one to understand how to control and treat a pet with roundworm infection it is important to know the lifecycle of the worm. As mentioned before the adult roundworm lives in the small intestines. In one day while in the small intestines a female can lay up to 200,000 eggs. These eggs are subsequently passed through the bowels and deposited upon the ground. While in and on the ground a two-stage larvae begins to develop in the egg and this egg is very sticky and easily clings to the fur or paws of the unsuspecting dog. Once it attaches to a dog it often finds its way into the mouth when the dog licks these regions.
Because the egg has a thick and durable shell it is well protected against environmental factors and disinfectants.
If the larvae is in its second stage when digested the shell will dissolve and the larvae then find their way to the small intestines. Once in the small intestine they dig their way through the intestine walls and into the surrounding blood vessels.
From the blood vessels they move to the liver where they burrow through the tissue and begin to molt into a third stage larvae. This third stage larvae then find their way through a blood vessel, through the heart, and into the lungs.
While in the lungs the larvae grow for a number of weeks and finally break out into the air spaces in the lungs and can be severe enough to cause bronchitis. During this time the dog will cough the worms up and re-swallow them where they will then find their way back to the small intestines.
The reason it is important to understand the lifecycle is because while the worm is moving through the tissue it is unable to be treated. The only time that treatment is effective is when the worm is an adult and in the gut of the dog.
When looking for a good de-wormer medicine our vet has advised us to purchase products with the active ingredient of Pyrantel Pamoate. Under the theory that "more is better" it is our opinion that medicines with a higher level of this ingredient are probably more affective and worth the extra $1 or $2. If advised differently by your vet we certainly recommend that you follow their directions.
While in the small intestine the larvae develop into adults. Within 2-3 weeks the female adults begin to lay their eggs where the whole cycle begins again. As long as a puppy is exposed to these eggs that puppy will face an issue of infection with worms in various stages of development.
Because only adult worms can be treated if medicated, the dog will only expel live eggs and dead adults. Those larvae in development in the dog will remain developing and the dog will remain infected. Because each female can lay a large amount of eggs within a very small amount of time the dog will be re-colonized and infected with worms in various stages of development.
Because only adult worms can be treated, it is of the utmost importance to realize that a single treatment will not be effective in the treatment of an infected puppy. Because of this it is important to treat the puppy on a regular and continual basis for a certain period of time to insure that the infection has been taken care of properly.
After the puppy reaches about twelve weeks of age their immune system is developed to a significant enough level to take care of infections and treatment can stop.
One exception to this is pregnant and lactating female dogs, who once again become susceptible to infection. Because of this, the risk to new pups is significant since they can pick up the eggs through the mothers’ droppings or through larvae that have stuck to her fur.
Another way a pup may be susceptible to infection is inutero (while in the uterus). This happens when the female dog has had worms when she was a pup and some larvae have hibernated in the tissue of the female until she becomes pregnant. This hibernation can last for many years. Upon pregnancy, for reasons not fully understood, these larvae once again become active and find their way to the uterus and burrow through to infect the pup. Because of this it is possible for a pup as early as two weeks old to have an active infestation of adult Roundworms.
Because adult Roundworms can be found in a pup as early as two weeks of age this is usually the time when the de-worming process should begin. Beginning treatment early will not only help the puppy out early in its life but also decrease the chances of it developing hibernating larvae, which could infect future litters.
Because worms can exist in various stages of development it is important for the purchaser to realize that worms are a common occurrence and have very little to do with the care of the pup by the breeder. It is also equally important for the breeder to have been regularly treating for worms and advise the purchaser of the potential for Roundworm infection and the appropriate treatment cycle.
In order to help reduce the chances of worms and other various diseases, such as Parvo and Distemper, the following steps should be taken:
- Collect all droppings.
- Reduce exposure to other animals and areas frequented buy other animals.
- Reduce exposure to unnecessary human contact, as they may be carriers.
- When possible, eliminate dirt runs. Where elimination is not possible make these runs as large as possible to help dilute the potential of infection.
- Maintain a strict treatment program.
A good worming program should begin as early as two weeks and continue on the third, fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth week with a Pyrantel Pamoate based de-wormer which is also effective against Hookworms.
Breeding females should be treated at least three times. Once before mating, another time after giving birth, and once again shortly before the pups are weaned. Because of the reduced level of immunity in older dogs treatment should also be given them on occasion.
Because humans can also become infected with the Roundworm it is important to realize the health risk involved. Because the worm can not pass through human tissue as it can through a dog’s tissue, the larvae tend to remain in various parts of the human body. These larvae are known as "visceral larvae migrans". These larvae often infect nervous system tissue and can cause blindness if they reach the optic nerve.
Because of the risk of infection and its possible side effects it is important that we try to avoid infection. Human infection comes through the swallowing of eggs, which may either be picked up from the soil or off the fur of an animal. Young children are most susceptible because they often ignore proper hygiene and are often the ones most interactive with animals. When you have children who play with animals it is important that you stress the importance of proper hygiene and the washing of hands to help reduce the likelihood of infection.
Some statistics everyone, especially those with children, should be aware of:
25% of park soil may contain eggs.
40-60% of urban dogs carry this parasite.
Hookworm Return to Index
There are three different types of hookworm. Ancylostoma caninum, Ancylostoma braziliense and Uncinaria stenocephala.
The Ancylostoma caninum prefers a tropical climate and the Uncinaria stenocephala prefers a cooler climate. Because of the various climates these worms enjoy, hookworm can occur in most any part of the world.
Of the three the Ancylostoma caninum is the most dangerous. These worms are not particular to the age of the dog they infect and can infect any dog of any age.
The hookworm derives its name due to the fact that it looks like a tiny fishhook.
The hookworm is small at only around 1cm but do not let this fool you as they multiply in mass amounts and can cause serious health issues such as anemia and even death. Because the hookworm feeds on the blood of the dog this can often weaken the dog’s immune defenses and may lead into secondary health issues.
The hookworm’s mouth is well adapted to attach to the intestine lining of the dog and with a very sharp tooth causes the dog to bleed.
The adult hookworm lives in the intestine of the dog and lays its eggs there where it is then passed out of the dog through its feces and in lactating bitches through her milk as well. The female can lay as many as 30,000 eggs per day.
After passing out of the infected dog with the right conditions of humidity and temperature the eggs develop into larvae, which go through two molts and emerge from the egg shell as moving free living larvae. Although these larvae like shade and need moisture in which to move they are quite resistant to many environmental conditions due to their ability to bury themselves in the soil for extended periods of time.
The hookworm can either infect the dog through consumption by the dog or through borrowing through the skin of the dog.
Skin penetrating larvae go to the lungs, break out of the lungs, are swallowed and eventually establish themselves as adults in the large intestine.
Larvae, which enter the dog through the mouth establish themselves immediately in the small intestine.
After infection the worm has a relatively short life cycle and in as little as two weeks can be mature egg producers. Because of this and the fact that treatment can only occur when the worm has established itself in the intestine completely curing the dog of such infection can be difficult. Because of these issues in treatment it is important once a dog is known (or suspected) to be infected that a regular treatment schedule begins and lasts for several weeks at a time.
Typically a treatment program can be administered every other week by the dogs owner but in cases where hookworm infection is severe and environmental conditions are right treatment should be done in weekly intervals.
As mentioned before lactating bitches can often be the source of infection to its pups. Although the hookworm may pass through the tissue and infect the pup inutero in most cases it happens in very large numbers through the milk. Because of this pups as young as two or three weeks of age can actually have adult hookworms in their intestine. Pups are not able to withstand the blood loss due to hookworm infections because their blood replacing organs are not fully developed, so if they develop anemia it can be rapidly fatal for them.
In developing and treating the hookworm one should follow these following suggestions:
- Keep your dogs run and living area dry.
- Avoid having shade over the dirt section of the dogs living and recreation areas.
- Where shade is allowed they should be concrete or raised boards.
- Minimize dirt in living and recreation areas where possible and allow good drainage.
- Pick up droppings daily where practical.
- Prevent grass outside runs from growing through the fence and providing shade for larvae. Because dogs like to lay in shaded areas this provides a perfect opportunity for larvae to infect the dog by borrowing through the skin.
- Make dirt runs as large as possible (if dirt is unavoidable). This will give a dilution effect.
- Limit shared areas between pups and adult dogs.
- Use a strict program of treatment
Worming a dog may begin at one week of age and then continue every week through week four and then every other week thereafter until week twelve. After week twelve, treatment should be given once every three months.
Worming products can be typically purchased at most pet supply stores and can be given orally. Typically this comes in a liquid that has a similar taste to banana. When looking for a worming product one should make sure that it contains the ingredient Pyrantel Pamoate, which has been proven to be effective in the treatment process.
The Whipworm parasite, called Trichuris vulpis, lives in the caecum (a large pouch at the beginning of the large intestine) of dogs. This parasite, unlike most other worm parasites, usually effects only dogs over 12 weeks of age.
The worm that is called Whipworm is similar in appearance to a whip. The adult Whipworm is 4-7cm in length.
Although this parasite does not seem to severely effect a dog some dogs do develop bouts of smelly diarrhea which itself can become a problem and create further health complications.
The egg of the Whipworm has a very thick shell, which protects the parasite for long periods of time (years) and through many adverse conditions. Once the dog ingests the egg, the larvae, then emerges and attaches itself in the intestine. While in the large intestine they lay eggs where they are then released in the dogs waste.
A dog will pick up the eggs by licking his paws or from the ground. The eggs will hatch out in the small intestine, pass down to the large intestine and start establishing themselves as adults. This process takes approximately twelve weeks, and also helps explain why young dogs do not tend to become fully infected.
With the Whipworm there is no tissue migration as with other worm parasites and puppies cannot be infected by the mother other than through the droppings.
Not all types of de-worming medications are effective against Whipworm, so be sure when selecting a worming product that treatment for the Whipworm is specifically mentioned.
In order to prevent Whipworm infection, the dog's dirt run should be limited and where dog droppings are present these should be removed and properly disposed of.
Tapeworm Return to Index
There are various types of tapeworm that can affect dogs. The most common is called Dipylidium caninum (the flea tapeworm). The most serious from the human point of view is Echinococcus granulosus (the hydatid tapeworm).
Tapeworms consist of a head part, which attaches to the lining of the dog’s intestine and a body, and numerous segments which hang into the inside of the dog’s gut. The flea tapeworm is quite large (up to 50cm) and its segments can often be seen in dog droppings, which resemble small melon seeds and will often move about. The hydatid tapeworm is much smaller (4-6 cm) and the segments in the dog’s droppings cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Tapeworms have a complicated life cycle. Adult tapeworms shed segments with the dog’s droppings from time to time. These segments are full of fertile eggs. Unlike most other worms, tapeworms must go through a development stage in another animal (an intermediate host) before they can re-infect the dog.
The flea tapeworm’s intermediate host is the dog flea. When flea larvae feed on the droppings of infected dogs, they take in the tapeworm eggs that develop into cysts inside the flea. When a dog nibbles at its fleas it will occasionally swallow one – if this flea has tapeworm cysts they hatch out and develop into adult tapeworms in the dog’s intestine.
The intermediate host of the hydatid tapeworm is one of a number of farm animals including sheep, cattle and pigs. Man can also act as an intermediate host as we will discuss below. When grazing animals graze areas of grass contaminated with the droppings of hydatid tapeworm infected dogs, they will pick up the eggs of the tapeworm from the contaminated droppings. Once inside the grazing animal, these eggs will develop into large cysts called hydatids, which usually occur in the offal (i.e. the liver, the lungs, etc.) of the intermediate host. If a dog should then eat the offal from an animal containing hydatids it will become infected with adult hydatid tapeworms. It takes about six weeks for a new hydatid tapeworm infection in the dog to start laying eggs.
Unless present in very large numbers, tapeworms do not usually cause a great deal of discomfort to dogs. However, the segments passed by the flea tapeworm may cause irritation of the dog’s tail and cause the dog to rub its bottom along the grounds.
There is no risk to humans from the flea tapeworm but the hydatid tapeworm may present a considerable public health problem. As mentioned previously, man can act as an intermediate host for this tapeworm if he picks up eggs from an infected dog. These eggs will develop into cysts or hydatids in the organs of the human, in the same way that they will in the cattle or other intermediate host. If hydatids develop in the lungs, the liver or the heart of an infected human, severe disease can result and may only be cured by surgery. It is important to realize that it is the hydatid, which affects man, not the adult worm. So eating hydatids in the offal of a cow cannot infect man, but he can become infected by picking up eggs from the droppings of dogs. Because rural dogs are most likely to have access to infected offal, hydatid tapeworm infection is mainly a problem in rural areas. However, the increasing practice of feeding untreated offal to urban dogs means that the incidence of hydatid tapeworm in urban dogs is probably also increasing. The urban dog owner should also be alert to the dangers.
The flea tapeworm can best be controlled in dogs by a combination of careful flea control and regular treatments for the dog. Twice yearly treatment with a drug that is effective against all tapeworms will normally be sufficient for most dogs. One should always read the full instructions on all medications before use and make sure they cover the issue of concern.
The hydatid tapeworm is probably best avoided by not feeding on uncooked offal or feeding it to their animals. Where this practice is carried out or access to offal cannot be avoided, it is important that dogs should be treated every six weeks with a suitable drug to prevent the buildup of hydatid tapeworms. The risk will be considerably reduced if offal is thoroughly cooked or boiled before being fed.
Heartworm Return to Index
Have you noticed the mosquitoes yet? If not hear they come its best to be prepared. Whether you have noticed the mosquitoes or not if your PitBull or other pets spend any amount of time outside it’s a good bet that they are aware of their presence. With the presence of Heartworm also come the chance that your pets may be subject to Heartworm infection.
Heartworm is probably one of the least considered worms in our grouping but failure to treat your Pit could ultimately lead to severe heart damage and slow death. Others may be under the impression that it’s just a worm that can be easily treated.
In the Heartworm’s case however the best treatment is Prevention. True medical treatment after infection has occurred should be done by a veterinarian, can cause serous side effects including death, and should be expected to be somewhat costly.
There are two primary preventative methods used. There is a once a month tablet given your dog or a more recent advancement the twice a year shot.
The Heartworm is a long thin worm, which finds its way to the heart and close by blood vessels. Although Heartworms do not tend to seriously have infected the dog before six months of age.
As males and females gather in the heart they mate and reproduce there with the female eventually releasing tiny larvae (microfilariae). As the tiny larvae circulate throughout the infected dog they are once again picked up by their transmitter the mosquito. While in the mosquito they continue developing an then passed onto the next dog not in a preventative treatment program.
Once passed back into another dog the larvae begins to mature in the deep tissues of the dog. After maturing to a young adult (approximately 3 months). Once the heart contains both male and females they begin to reproduce after 6-7 months of the dogs initial infection new larvae will be produced.
As more and more adults accumulate in the heart they begin to cause heart failure in the dog. The dog will exhibit the same symptoms as heart failure does in that the dog will become tolerant of exercise less and less of exercise and have abdominal fluid buildup.
Typically Heartworm diagnosis is done by your vet giving your dog a blood test. These tests are able to predict such infection even before onset of any symptoms. Dogs blood tests should be reviewed annually to insure that any preventative techniques being used is also effective.
In order for any dog to be first put on preventative treatment it should be first tested. If an infected dog is treated without having this blood test these treatments can be very harmful and even fatal. A preventative treatment program should typically begin around the dogs 8-10 week of age mark.
One way we can all help in controlling the worms is through controlling the mosquito. Here is a basic but effective method of controlling mosquito populations. Eliminate open aired stagnant water sources such as troths, open rain barrels, septic overflow saturation, bird baths, buckets, etc.
Demodectic Mange Return to Index
Often referred to as Red Mange, Demodectic mange (canine demodecosis) is caused by the mite Demodex canis.
Although the majority of dogs have this mite some who have impaired immune systems are susceptible to having this mite reproduce in a way that their immune system can not effectively keep the mite in check. This weakened immune system seems to often be a genetic trait passed on by the parents that often can be linked back to inbreeding practices.
There are three primary forms:
This form will often go away on it's own. This is typically characterized by a well defined red scaly lesion and hair loss most often occurring on the face and forelegs. Although treatment may be given to this type it is often advised that it not be done so as to be able to determine the level of the immune system in the animal and to be able to make a determination as to whether or not it will become generalized.
If treated this determination can not be arrived at accurately.
This is typical of a dog who has a genetically weak immune system. This is characterized by enlarged lymph nodes, red scaly lesions and hair loss that spreads over the entire body. This weakened immune system is often a trait inherited from genetically weak parents and can cause issues for the pet the entirety of its life. Any pet determined to have this form should be spay/neutered.
Any pregnant animal who has been determined to have this condition should be spayed after recovery from birth. It is important not to treat this animal until it is fully recovered as this period in their life is stressful and added stress can cause treatment of the condition to be much more difficult and have a lower rate of success.
After birth it is imperative that the babies be IMMEDIATELY removed and not allowed contact with the infected mother. Hand raising these babies will be necessary to help in the prevention of infection to them. Because of the hereditary component of this type of red mange and the care involved with hand raising the babies, those affected do not make good breeding candidates and such attempts should never be undertaken.
This is where the mange has confined itself to the paws. In many cases this mange must be determined through biopsy and is often accompanied by bacterial infections.
Treatment is typically undertaken by a vet and can be quite costly. The drug Amitraz (Mitaban) is often used and can cause bad reactions for people who are exposed to the treatment and are taking serotonin reuptake inhibitors (such as Prozac). Because of this both those treating the animal and those who have exposure to the treated animal should be aware of possible health risks to themselves. This type of treatment should also never be used on any toy breeds or young puppies.
Other treatments do exist but vary in their effectiveness and reviewed by your treating veterinarian.
In old times people would attempt to treat this condition with motor oil. THIS IS NOT AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT. IT WILL NOT WORK. In addition to it not working trying this will put your pet at great risk since it is likely that they will lick much of it off and cause sever kidney and liver damage in many cases leading to death. That which is not licked off can absorb through the skin and cause severe blood pressure drops and lead to death as well.
Spay / Neuter Return to Index
In this issue we will be discussing spay and neutering. We often receive inquiries on this subject from members and the general community. This article is intended to inform interested individuals as best possible about both the positives and negatives in making such a choice for a pet. This article should not take the place of professional veterinary consultation, but it is provided to help responsible pet owners in making an informed choice on the topic.
Because there are very few negative drawbacks to the process we will address these issues first.
In choosing to spay or neuter your pet one should know that if they have intentions for “showing” the pet, many registries frown upon it and will subsequently penalize the animal and owner. At The American PitBull Registry we personally feel that this penalization is unfair. Shows are intended to determine conformity, skill, talent, and a myriad of other qualities, but not whether the pet has the capacity to breed. As such we feel that having a pet spay or neutered is a decision that should not have any effect on its performance or be used against it in the judging process.
Next in line of negatives is the potential negative effects of anesthetizing the pet for the surgery. As with all surgery there is this risk. This risk is very minimal however. If a pet has ever been in surgery, prior knowledge of its tolerance to anesthesia can be helpful in making an informed decision about the process. If the pet has never had a surgical procedure you should consult the operating veterinarian on ways to minimize such risk.
For some there are concerns that the males may have less developed chests, heads, and muscling. If this is a concern then waiting until the pet has reached one year should minimize such effects. Neutering at an early age additionally may lead to larger (obese) males but this can often be controlled with proper nutritional care and proper diets. Because of the potential for weight gain there is also the potential for the development or aggravation of orthopedic issues such as Hip Dysplasia.
For females there may be a tendency for slightly increased aggression due to increased testosterone. This may be of concern to those with children but can often be more controlled with proper training of the pet and teaching children proper respect toward animals. As a side note, most bites that occur to children are a result of their lack of respect for the animal in question, its health conditions, and its defined territories. As responsible pet owners and parents the ultimate responsibility in their care lies within ourselves.
Female pets that have been spayed may also suffer from urinary incontinence, which is most often treatable but can be a life long issue in some.
Now on to the positives.
Spaying females eliminates the heat cycle and it’s correlated mood swings. With the elimination of the heat cycle there is no spotting which is a concern for many who feel this issue itself is enough to warrant the process.
Neutering males eliminates the desire to roam to find a viable female in heat. This reduction in roaming desire reduces the risk of escape and running away to find a mate. This reduced roaming desire thus reduces the risk of injury due to car accidents, territorial domination, fighting for females among other males, and being picked up by animal control officials which is often a death sentence for the PitBull in many communities around the world.
It should be noted that dogs have a very keen sense of smell and males can often tell when a female is in heat from very long distances away.
For those who use their dogs for hunting purposes the distraction of a female in heat can often lead to a distraction from the task and even the loss of the male hunting dog.
With pets that are not altered there comes the increased risk of unwanted parenthood. Pregnancy can be harmful to females and can in some cases, can lead to death. Unwanted pets, especially of mixed varieties, make up the predominance of those euthanized daily in shelters around the world. Thousands die annually unnecessarily in such places due to unplanned pregnancies and irresponsible ownership.
In addition to unwanted pregnancy there also comes the increased risk of venereal disease.
For females that have been spayed their risk of dying later in life due to mammary cancer is less than 1% when the procedure is done before her first heat cycle. If spayed between the first and second heat cycle this is reduced to 8%. Those spayed after their second heat are at a 25% risk, which is the same as those who have not been altered.
For females that are spayed they can avoid the risk of Pyometra (uterine infection) which effects approximately 8% of the female dog population during their lifetime. Dogs are especially susceptible to this condition due to their unique estrus cycle. Pyometra can go on for a long period of time before it is detected and can become quite a serious issue.
For males that are neutered they have a reduced tendency in marking (urinating for territory). This alone is a good enough reason for many to go through with this procedure and can reduce negative effects of marking, especially as the male ages.
We hope this has given a balanced and informative review on the subject of sexual alteration.
Tick Borne Illness and Prevention Return to Index
There are several illnesses associated with ticks. It is important to realize that not all tick bites will result in illness but that when a tick is itself infected with the associated bacteria it can then transmit this illness on to other species including your pets, your children, and you.
By far the most serious of illnesses associated with ticks is that of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The name is misleading as this illness has been found to have a range from Alaska and Southern Canada to as far south as South America. This illness was first reported in 1896 in Idaho and was called Black Measles for its measle like appearance. Diagnosis of this illness can be difficult and easily overlooked. Treatment of this disease is critical as 3% - 5% of those effected still die as a result of the infection despite effective treatments and advances in medical care.
Certainly the most prevalent illness associated with ticks is Lyme disease. Lyme disease effects approximately 16,000 individuals in the US each year and has been reported in every state. Although there have been a few Lyme disease related deaths the probability of death from Lyme disease is next to 0 especially with the appropriate medical treatment. Estimated costs associated with education and treatment of this disease exceed $60 million annually.
Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness is another tick borne illness. This illness is primarily confined from Texas eastward with the majority of cases in the southern states and eastern seaboard. Although this illness is not as common as Lyme disease it shares many of the symptoms and without clinical tests to rule out Lyme disease can be easily misdiagnosed.
Ehrlichiosis caused by the Ehrlichia bacterium. Although only a few cases in America have been reported similar illnesses related to this bacteria have been reported in the Southeast Asia and Far East predominantly in western Japan. Little is known about the illness and transmission associated with the Erlichia bacterium but investigations are currently underway to help promote better understanding.
Babesia Infection although extremely rare has been classified as an emerging infectious disease or EID. Because of the rarity of this disease very little is known about it. Individuals who have been diagnosed with this illness are of great interest to the medical community for study. The medical community is interested in these individuals in order to gain greater understanding of the illness. With this understanding they try to develop appropriate treatment methods and ways of treating it in its early stages as well as developing ways to eliminate the illness before it becomes more prevalent in the world wide community.
Symptoms of these illnesses are often very similar which include rash, headaches, fever, aches, and swelling especially in the major joints.
The best prevention against getting an illness associated with ticks is to avoid areas such as the woods and overgrown brush. Knowing this is not really feasible for many of us, the next best thing is to dress in such a way as to limit skin exposure, wear insect repellant, and thoroughly search yourself and pets when coming from such environments.
Pets should also be treated to help prevent them from being the target of ticks with liquid treatments like those available through Frontline and Advantix. Some animals may be sensitive to such treatments so after their application one should supervise their pets health for a few days afterwards. In addition to repelling ticks such treatments have been made to also repel fleas and mosquitoes, which also has positive health benefits for your pets.
If a tick is found to be lodged in you or your pet it is important to remove it appropriately. The appropriate method of removing a tick is with the use of tweezers or rubber gloves. It is important to grab the tick as close to the base of the skin as possible and pull directly outward slowly. Ticks should not be jerked or twisted out as this may severe their mouth parts which may remain lodged in the skin. If this happens these should also be removed to prevent continuing or increased risk of infection. It is also important not to handle the tick with bare hands or squish the tick. If the tick is a carrier of a bacteria, handling the tick inappropriately can result in passing the infection on even without bite especially when in contact with the mucus membranes or even small unseen cuts in the skin may be. After removal it is important to wash any skin that has came in contact with the tick with soap (preferably antibacterial soap) and hot water. Subsequent treatment with Hydrogen Peroxide is also recommended.
If there is cause for concern it is advisable to place the tick in a sealable plastic bag and to make note of the date of exposure and any subsequent symptoms there may be of illness. Having the tick specimen will help a lab run tests to determine if the tick is an actual carrier of any bacteria that could cause illness. If cases of illness have been reported in your area this is an especially important step to help determine treatment and community prevalence.
Canine Brucellosis Return to Index
Brucellosis is a disease spread by the bacteria in the genus Brucella. This disease can affect most any vertebrate animal including sheep, goat, elk, deer, pigs, and our wonderful companion friend, the dog.
Brucellosis is contagious and can be transmitted from one animal species to another through contact of contaminated animals or animal products. Vectors of contamination include eating, drinking, contact of bodily fluids, and on rare occasion through inhalation.
When Brucellosis is transmitted to humans it manifests itself into flue like symptoms such as fever, sweats, aches and pains, and weakness. Severe infections can affect the nervous system and lining of the heart. Symptoms do not usually last very long but can in some cases become chronic. Most cases in humans are a result of partaking in unpasturized milk, ice cream and cheeses. This most often occurs to Americans when visiting foreign countries and ingesting dairy products. Human to human infection can occur through transplants, breast feeding, and sexual interaction.
In canines the effects of Brucellosis are much more severe. The Brucellosis infection in the dog will affect its reproductive system. In the female this leads to abortion of inutero pups and death to infected pups after birth. In males this can cause an infection in the sexual organs leading to discomfort and inflammation. Infertility, poor health, and damage to the kidneys and nervous system can be long-term effects in both sexes.
Although infection is rare and typically the result of stray unhealthy companions, if breeding stock becomes infected in a kennel type of arrangement this can lead to disaster. In order to avoid such contamination in breeding it is a good idea to have all mates tested through a simple blood test available through your veterinarian. Because of the rareness (1% - 6%) of this illness some vets may see this as unnecessary and may try to talk a responsible breeder out of it. If considering breeding you should explain your concerns to your vet and remind them they are they to serve you as a customer and the reason why you are asking for such a test is to be responsible in your breeding program.
If any pet you have is determined to have this disease it is imperative that they be removed from consideration as a breeding subject and that they be kept separated from any other breeding stock you may have. If any pet or human in your household becomes infected it is important to have the entire set of breeding dogs subsequently tested.
If a pet is determined to have Brucellosis while pregnant and still does to manage to have a litter it will be crucial to the pups survival that they be removed without the opportunity to nurse. This should be done with the use of rubber gloves and by giving the pups a thorough washing. After washing the pups you should wash any parts of your body that have come into direct contact with the pups. The new owners must be informed of their infection and it will be necessary to spay/neuter the entire lot to prevent spread of the disease. Although no vaccine has been found for this disease, treatment with Tetracycline or Streptomycin may be administered on a long-term schedule but even this is often still ineffective. Although the APBR does not condone euthanasia in most cases, humanely culling such pups, given the potential threat of this disease, may be considered.
Because of the potential of spread to humans, health departments in many states may order such infected animals destroyed.
The best prevention of this disease is through eliminating the exposure your pet has to outside roaming animals through responsible containment such as with well-maintained fences of proper height or keeping them inside.
Coccidia Return to Index
This species Coccidia is an opportunistic single cell parasite that affects the digestive system. Like worms this parasite is often detected by fecal exam. Unlike worms however these parasites never grow large enough to be seen by the naked eye.
The Coccidia is also known in its initial state as an Oocysts (pronounced o'o-sists), which can easily be visualized as a little “o” inside of a big “O” as seen through the microscopic picture below.
Coccidia are spread through fecal matter. Such infected fecal matter is easily passed through contact with other animals or the areas they habitate. Squirrels, birds, people’s shoes, hands, car tires and even the rain itself may spread it. Coccidia can even be spread by an infected mouse, which is then eaten by a pet and then leads to its infection. Because this illness can contaminate the cleanest environment it is important to always be on the lookout for it and treat all pets especially the very young at the first sign any infection has occurred.
Because Coccidia is only visible through microscopic evaluation and its symptoms can often mimic that of other diseases such as Parvo and Distemper the illness is often misdiagnosed. The only real verification of this very prevalent illness is through fecal exam under a microscope. Because the fecal exam is much easier and cost efficient it is often the first thing that should be considered when a pet is exhibiting any of the below symptoms.
The symptoms of Coccidia range from none at all to nausea, lethargy, depression and diarrhea, which is often watery and may contain blood. Because its symptoms are much the same as Parvo and other illnesses that cause dehydration the course of treatment is often the same with the addition of the special drugs Albon or another similar sulfa medication to help with the condition.
An anti nausea/vomiting drug is often also provided. Anti-nausea/vomiting drugs are widely used with any condition where vomiting is a threat. Vomiting can cause great stress to a young pup and can lead to severe depression and less will to live. It is most important to treat vomiting as a critical issue. Severe vomiting can lead to rapid dehydration. Severe dehydration is the actual killer and not the disease itself in many cases where death from illness occurs.
Understanding the signs of dehydration and immediately acting on its reversal can significantly improve the odds of that pet’s survival. Such action may involve something as easy as providing a moisture rich food to syringe feed and watering all the way up to IV Fluid treatment.
It is important to note that Coccidia cannot be cured by the drugs that are used, but instead that these drugs inhibit the parasites growth and aid in its expulsion from the pet’s system. With fewer Coccidia in the digestive tract the pet’s immune system then is allowed to catch up and complete the task to kill the remaining.
On the positive side of a pet’s infection with Coccidia, like Parvo if a dog is unlucky enough to have caught it but yet survives it will then likely gain a lifetime of immunity from future episodes.
Kennel Cough Return to Index
Kennel Cough is not typically dangerous and is typically caused by any one several different infectious agents that irritate the lining of the throat. The most common organisms associated with such infections are the bacteria Bordetella, two viruses Parainfluena and Adenovirus, and the organism Mycoplasma.
Typically the symptoms of infection are a dry, hacking cough occur around 3-7 days from the point of exposure and last typically 7-21 days in duration. Symptoms increase with the activity of the dog due to the increased irritation of air passing over exposed nerves in the dog’s trachea. Other than the cough there are typically no other symptoms.
Most cases of kennel cough will go away on their own without the need for medications. Cough suppressants and antibiotics may also aid in speeding up the recovery process and reducing the cough thus making it more comfortable for the dog involved.
Kennel cough is typically transmitted in areas where there are numbers of dogs confined together such as kennels, shelters, dog shows, dog parks and so on. In-door environments perpetuate the risk due to lack of airflow. Like a human cold it only takes one infected dog to spread the infection and may do so for days or even weeks after they have seemed to recover.
Kennel cough can be acquired even in the cleanest environments and is not subject to blame typically of the kennel, shelter, show operator. Many dogs develop an immunity against such infection due to minor exposures they receive during their life that act in the same way an immunization booster shot does.
All cough should be reviewed by a vet as there may be other causes such as serious respiratory disease, heartworms and cardiac disease.
Vaccination is available but non-commercial brands typically only protect against the Bordetella agent. Other agents are however typically protected against with routine vaccinations. If considering activities that will regularly expose your dog to such infection vaccination should be considered and provided at least a few weeks beforehand.
Rabies Return to Index
Rabies is a viral infection typically spread by bite through the saliva of an infected animal. Rabies is easily avoidable in the pet population through rabies immunization shots, which are typically required of pet owners living in the United States. Other countries however do not have such requirements leading to numerous human deaths especially in the countries of Africa and India.
The rabies virus is an RNA virus, which do not replicate using a DNA intermediate. The virus itself is shaped similar to a bullet with spikes.
Typically an infected animal will exhibit erratic behavior due to the effect the virus has on the animal’s brain. Once the virus reaches the brain it rapidly causes encephalitis, which is an acute inflammation of the brain.
Rabies is first presented with flu-like symptoms and presents itself typically between 3-12 weeks of exposure although it may take as long as 2 years. Symptoms typically progress in severity until full-blown insanity and subsequent death.
There is no known cure for rabies and the only real hope is in vaccination, which should occur as soon as possible after a bite before the virus has the ability to take hold. Typically the period of time for vaccination should be within 14 days of exposure with a treatment regimen lasting over a 28 day period, which is critical to success.
During the progression of the infection an animal will typically produce large amounts of saliva coupled with the inability to swallow (commonly known as foaming at the mouth). All such animals exhibiting this symptom should be avoided at all costs and reported to the local authorities so that immediate action can be taken to reduce the risk of bite and transmission.
Only six people have survived have full-blown contraction of rabies and of the six only one (Jeanna Giese) survived without severe brain damage.