Some living organisms can be extremely harmful to your pet's health.
Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is a viral disease that infects the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and central nervous systems. Dogs who have not been vaccinated for Canine Distemper are the most at-risk. While the disease can also be contracted when improperly vaccinated or when a dog has high susceptibility to bacterial infection, these cases are rare.
Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is a contagious disease attacking cells that rapidly reproduce. It can occur at any age but is ordinarily seen in puppies around 6 to 20 weeks old. There are two types of CPV, intestinal and cardiac. Intestinal CPV is most common and is distinguished by diarrhea, decreased appetite, vomiting, and weight loss. Cardiac CPV is usually only seen in very young puppies and attacks their heart muscles, typically resulting in death. Vaccination is extremely important and can help prevent Canine Parvovirus. Certain breeds, namely Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers, are particularly susceptible to infection so extra caution should be taken.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is comparable to AIDS in humans and is often found simultaneously occurring in cats with feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Similar to AIDS, FIV is present in blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and saliva. The most common transmission of the virus is through a cat fight or during pregnancy as an infected mother passes it to her offspring. In very rare cases, a cat may contract FIV through saliva. Feline immunodeficiency virus is a slowly progressing virus and cannot survive outside its host.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is responsible for the majority of household cat deaths. It affects all breeds, though it is more common in males and typically occurs in felines aged one to six years old. Outdoor cats and cats in multiple-cat environments are considered the most at-risk for contracting FeLV, a virus spread through warm fluids, such as nasal secretions, saliva, urine, or a mother's milk. It can also be spread from a mother to her kittens while they are still in the womb. Grooming one-another and fighting tend to be the most common ways in which the virus spreads. Because feline leukemia cannot survive outside of a host, ordinary detergents, including bleach, successfully kill the virus on household surfaces.
Feline panleukopenia (FPV), also known as feline distemper, is a viral infection among cats that is caused by parvovirus. Similar to parvovirus, it is extremely resilient and can survive on nearly any surface and for extensive periods of time. FPV is highly contagious and often fatal. While it is not contagious for humans or dogs, ferrets can spread the disease to and can obtain the disease from cats. This virus is spread through contact with an infected animal's bodily waste, body fluid, bed, or dishes. Pet owners can also carry the disease on their clothing and shoes.
Rabies is a fatal viral infection that is transferred when a pet comes into contact with an infected host. Most often, exposure occurs through contact with affected wildlife, namely bats, coyotes, foxes, racoons or skunks. A rabid animal could bite another or make contact with an existing wound, resulting in an infection; transmission can also occur when an animal makes contact with infected saliva through the eyes or mouth. Being that the virus is zoonotic, humans are capable of contracting rabies from their pets.
Canine leptospirosis is an infection caused by Leptospira bacteria. Dogs typically pick up the bacteria from water or soil contaminated with infected urine. Most at risk are pets that spend a lot of time in the water or in areas that get rain or snow runoff, as well as dogs that drink from puddles or ponds. Leptospirosis is zoonotic, meaning humans can contract the bacteria from contact with the urine of an infected pet. Canine leptospirosis infection can be asymptomatic, meaning not showing any signs of the infections. Although, when symptoms do occur they can include muscle pain, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, depression, and blood in the urine. In more serious cases, lepto can cause jaundice and blood clotting problems. Leptospirosis can be avoided by vaccinating your pet on a yearly basis.
Lyme disease is caused by exposure to a spirochete bacteria (double-membrane, asexual bacteria that is cylindrically shaped). Infection carrying ticks spread Lyme disease to pets, generally canines, by attaching to the pet and feeding on their blood for an extended period of time. This bite transmits the bacteria from the tick to the pet. Ticks that carry Lyme disease are most common in specific geographic areas - the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest regions; they also thrive in temperatures above freezing, so more cases are reported during the months of March through October. After feeding on an animal's blood supply for several hours, it can take weeks to months for the bacteria to self-replicate and travel through the bloodstream and embed itself in muscles, joints, tendons, the heart, and lymph nodes. Some pet breeds can develop a fatal type of Lyme disease that specifically attacks their kidneys. Because Lyme disease can be fatal if left untreated, we recommend contacting the veterinarian when you first notice something might be wrong with your pet. For pet owners who live in high-risk areas, vaccination is highly recommended.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in domestic pets:
- Decreased appetite
- Hesitant to get up from resting position
- Hesitant to run, jump, or walk
- Limping on one leg then shifting to another
- Occasional or permanent inability to bear weight on a limb
- Swollen, painful joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
Parasites are common among pets, especially dogs and cats that are allowed to roam outdoors. Various parasites can be native to a location, affecting pets throughout diverse times of the year. Pet owners should take note of the parasites common within their region and observe their pets during the seasons they are most prone to infection.
Fleas The most common flea is the Ctenocephalides Felix, more commonly known as the cat flea, though there are various other types. This particular type of flea is capable of hosting on humans, cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, guinea pigs, ferrets, and birds. These fleas rapidly reproduce and are capable of quickly infesting an entire household with both humans and pets as their hosts. If one pet has fleas, all pets within the household must be treated. Fleas survive by ingesting the blood of their hosts. When they bite the host's flesh, their saliva irritates the skin, causing the host to itch which in turn, may cause an allergic reaction. To determine if your pet has fleas, comb a section of hair on their back, towards a white piece of paper. If black flecks, resembling dirt, fall onto the paper, gently drop a very small amount of water onto the paper. If the black flecks begin to turn a rust-colored red, your pet has fleas. The rust hue is resultant of the blood being sucked out of your pet. If nothing comes off of your pet when brushed, or if the black flecks remain black, your pet is healthy.
Household inhabitants with fleas may experience:
- Mild to severe scratching
- Open sores
- Pet owners experiencing flea bites
- Crusty rash around ears
- Dark, waxy or crusty ear discharge
- Hair loss from excessive scratching
- Head shaking
- Large blood blisters around ears
- Patches of scaliness
Dogs and cats can be victims of intestinal parasites also knows as worms. The most commons intestinal parasites your pet can encounter are: Roundworms, Hookworms, Whipworms and Tapeworms. These worms are microscopic and must be seen under microscope except for two : Roundworms and Tapeworms. Pets who present themselves to the veterinary clinic with what seems like white rice grains in the stool are indicative to the adult form of Roundworm or Tapeworm.
Symptoms that pets have worms:
- Blood in stool
- Weight loss
- Dry skin/coat
- Vomiting (absence or presence of worms)
However, some worm infestations can cause few or no symptoms; in fact some larvae can be dormant in a pet's body and activated only in times of stress or when the immune system is low.
Roundworms - Generally, puppies and kittens are born with larvae in their tissues. They are normally transmitted during the gestation period through the mother's tissues or during the lactations period through the infected mother's milk. The eggs generally migrate in the small intestine for the remainder of their lives, although some adult worms will migrate to the lungs and are either coughed up or swallowed to relive the cycle. Symptoms to look for in our young pets are distended abdomens (pot-belly) and poor growth. The adult worms can be seen in vomit or soft stool. Roundworms can infest adult dogs and cats, too. Without treatment of a roundworm infestation, a fatal intestinal blockage can arise.
Whipworms - More often seen in dogs than cats. Adult whipworms shed fewer eggs which makes it very hard for a veterinarian to diagnose. That being said, your veterinarian may need to repeat several stool samples before seeing any presence of whipworms. Dogs that live in unsanitary places, where whipworms are present such as kennels, or present themselves with diarrhea, mucus in the stool and considerable weight loss, the veterinarian may prescribe a whipworm medication based upon circumstantial evidence.
Hookworms - Like Whipworms, Hookworms are generally seen in dogs than in cats. They are small in size, thin and attach themselves to the wall of the small intestine. Dogs contract hookworms during gestation, lactation or from direct contact with the larvae in contaminated soil. A large infestation of hookworms can cause severe anemia and lead to death. Older dogs presenting with lethargy, chronic weight loss, soft stool or blood in the bowel movements can relate to a chronic hookworm infestation. A diagnosis can be made by examining the feces for larvae under a microscope.
Tapeworms - Tapeworms are transmitted to dogs and cats by ingesting fleas. Owners who see rice like grains in their pets stool, without having fed rice to your animals the night before should come directly to their veterinary clinic to have their stool analyzed. You may also notice little segments attached to your pet's fur around the anus or under the tail. Tapeworms must be treated with veterinary care.
If your pet has any or multiple symptoms or have seen something odd in your pet's stool, please call your veterinarian at your earliest convenience.