It’s that time of year again! Delightfully warm breezes, new leaves on the trees, flowers popping up everywhere, and of course the annoying onslaught of tiny, itchy, disease-carrying creatures. Fleas and ticks begin their reign of terror in New England around April, and continue to go strong through about December, when their numbers die down (but don’t go away completely).
Your pet’s ongoing good health depends in part upon disease prevention, and protecting them during flea and tick season is a great place to start.
Anyone who has battled a flea infestation on their pet or in their home knows how frustrating the flea life cycle can be. More often than not, the problem needs to be addressed multiple times, and can be time consuming and expensive.
Besides being annoying, many pets and people are allergic to flea saliva. The resulting allergy, known as flea allergic dermatitis, can cause severe itching and other problems after only a few bites. Fleas also carry diseases that can affect humans and pets, including tapeworm, Bartonella (cat scratch fever), and plague.
As their geographical distribution continues to increase, ticks are becoming more and more of a problem all year long. Ticks can carry life-threatening diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and more.
If you find a tick on your pet, remove it carefully by grasping the head with a pair of tweezers and pulling straight back. Your pet’s best line of defense against dangerous tick-borne diseases is an ongoing monthly prevention medication.
Staying Safe During Flea and Tick Season
Besides keeping your pets on a year-round flea and tick preventive medication, there is plenty that can be done to safeguard your home and family during flea and tick season, including:
Avoid areas where fleas and ticks are likely to hide – Heavily wooded areas, tall grasses, or brush can harbor fleas and ticks.
Keep landscaping trimmed – Fleas and ticks tend to hang out in shady, humid areas. By keeping your lawn and landscaping trimmed, you can reduce their habitat near your home.
Perform daily flea and tick checks – This proactive measure only takes a few moments, and should be done every time your pet comes in from the outdoors.
Keep them clean – Bathe and brush your pet regularly, wash their bedding weekly, and keep floors vacuumed and clean to prevent fleas from becoming an issue in your home.
Stay away from wildlife – Raccoons, possums, rabbits, coyotes, and other wildlife are often carriers of parasites like ticks and fleas. Discourage wildlife from hanging around your home or yard by keeping pet food and water bowls indoors, utilizing fencing, and other means. Don’t allow your pet to investigate live or dead wildlife.
Most of us are aware that mosquitoes can spread dangerous diseases to humans, but did you know they can also transmit a deadly illness to our pets called heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a severe and potentially fatal condition affecting a pet’s heart and lungs. It can be found in all 50 states and in Canada; infecting cats, dogs, and many other wild species. Over 30 species of mosquito are known to transmit the disease. With spring in the air, the team at Wellesley Natick Veterinary Hospital wants to review the importance of heartworm prevention.
How is Heartworm Transmitted?
The heartworm life cycle is long and complex and requires two host animals to complete. In summary:
A mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal.
The baby heartworm larvae, or microfilariae, develop in the mosquito’s body for 10-30 days.
The mosquito bites a different host, depositing the microfilariae on the skin. From there, they enter the bloodstream where they circulate for several weeks. Eventually, they make their way to the heart and pulmonary arteries, where they mature into foot-long, adult heartworms capable of reproduction.
The adult heartworms release new microfilariae back into the bloodstream, where they can once again be picked up by a mosquito and spread to other unsuspecting hosts.
Adult heartworms live 5-7 years in dogs and 2-3 years in cats. They can infect any breed, age, shape, or size of pet.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs of heartworm may be subtle and can look like symptoms for other diseases, as well. In the early stages, dogs may show no symptoms at all, which is why regular heartworm testing is vital for early diagnosis. As the infection progresses, signs become more apparent. This can include:
Sudden onset cough
Abnormal sounds in the lungs
Diagnosing heartworm hinges on having an accurate and complete history of your pet’s lifestyle, as well as a physical exam and certain diagnostic tests, including:
Blood antigen test
Blood antibody test
Cardiac ultrasound or echocardiogram
We may also recommend testing to determine the effects of the disease to provide needed support and therapy.
For dogs, treatment involves injections that kill the adult heartworms. Because dead and dying worms can cause blockages in your pet’s pulmonary arteries, there’s always a serious risk to treatment; your pet may need to be hospitalized for observation. Exercise is also restricted for the duration of treatment (often several weeks), so as not to exacerbate these complications.
Unfortunately, there’s no approved drug for treating heartworm in cats. Typically, symptoms are treated with the hope the cat outlives the worms. However, a respiratory emergency or even sudden death can be the result of a cat’s lungs reacting to the dead and dying worms inside.
The best news about heartworm is that it’s easily preventable with year round protection.
In addition to monthly topical or chewable preventives, there’s now an injectable heartworm medication for dogs called Proheart 6, which can be given in our office every 6 months. This frees you from having to remember your pet’s monthly dose, and it’s been 100% effective in clinical trials. This is a convenient option that can easily coincide with your pet’s wellness visit.
We hope this overview about the importance of heartworm prevention is helpful. If you have any questions or would like more information, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.
Mitigating potential catastrophe is a necessity of life. Without a constant nod to the what-if’s around every corner, are we more at risk of suffering illness or injury? Certainly when we know what to look for, we can focus more on enjoying ourselves and being happy. The same is true for our pets when it comes to knowing how to prevent a pet poisoning.
With spring’s inevitable arrival, pets and their owners will begin spending more and more time outside. With warmer temperatures and longer days, we also turn our attention to long-neglected yard work. Reduce the risks of a pet poisoning in your own backyard by paying close attention to the following:
Flower bulbs like daffodils, tulips, and crocus
There are several other plants that are considered “indoor-only” that sometimes find their way outside in the warmer months. For example, sago palm, dieffenbachia, and philodendron should not be left out for a pet to sniff or sample.
Other Potential Culprits
Home improvement projects are common in the spring but can expose pets to a variety of chemicals they usually never see, smell, or taste. Be store to store the following products securely, and keep your pet away when they’re in use:
Degreasers and other solvents
Similarly, items for the yard and garden should never be left out for your pet to explore. Products like cocoa mulch, fertilizers, rodent bait, snail bait, insecticides, and pesticides are strictly off-limits for pets.
Also remember to never let your pet eat a rodent that’s recently been exposed to poison. Either commit to pet-safe eradication solutions or board your pet while you deal with pests in and around your home.
Around the House
To truly prevent a pet poisoning, owners can never let down their guard down completely. This means stowing away all medications (prescription and over-the-counter for both humans and animals) and potentially poisonous foods. Backpacks and purses must never be left on the floor.
A Pet Poisoning is an Emergency
If you know or suspect your pet has consumed something poisonous, please act quickly in calling us for help and transporting your pet for veterinary intervention. Try gathering evidence and samples, if possible. Early diagnostics can help us develop a safe, effective treatment plan to combat a pet poisoning. IV fluids, soft food, rest, and other supportive measures can diminish symptoms.
A pet poisoning is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, extreme behavioral changes, lethargy or withdrawal, abdominal pain, drooling, and increased heart rate. When you know what to look for, chances of a pet poisoning can be drastically reduced. Stay safe!
Bad breath in your pet may be common, but it’s not normal! It’s often the first sign of dental disease. It is estimated that by the time pets are 4 years of age, 85% have some form of dental disease. That statistic is reason enough to embark on a regular professional dental cleaning program, coupled with at-home pet dental care.
With a focus on your pet’s dental health, dental disease in pets is entirely preventable!
Dental Disease Unraveled
First, let’s unravel dental disease. Periodontal disease occurs when plaque forms on the teeth and combines with minerals in saliva, forming tartar (dental calculus). Plaque and tartar attract bacteria, which eventually collect on the teeth and below the gum line, causing inflammation known as gingivitis.
Once the bacteria migrate below the gum line, infection, tooth fractures, and tooth loss can occur. Left untreated, bacteria from dental disease eventually enters the bloodstream and can cause damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Pet Dental Care Begins at Home
Dental care is best started at home, when your pet is young. Getting your new puppy or kitten used to daily tooth brushing can be fun and effective. And, even with an older pet, daily tooth brushing can be done with patience and a positive attitude. Here are some tips:
Start in a calm environment
Use a pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste
Touch the teeth and mouth without the brush, praising as you go
Touch the toothbrush to the teeth
Let your pet lick the toothpaste from your finger
Apply toothpaste to the brush and brush the top front teeth
Gradually work your way to the top back teeth
Eventually, work your way to the bottom teeth, starting in front and moving back
Between each step, stop and praise your pet. Getting through all these steps may take many brushing sessions and days of patience and praise. Don’t give up! Our technicians are happy to help show you how to brush during your visit with us.
Other ways to discourage dental disease include dental diets, chews, and water additives. Any combination of these might be recommended to help prevent dental disease and control plaque buildup at home. None of them substitute for brushing and professional cleanings, but they can be an effective addition to an at-home program.
Even with the best at-home dental care, all pets need their teeth professionally cleaned periodically. How often depends on your pet’s overall health and their dental health.
A professional dental cleaning under anesthesia is necessary to thoroughly clean under the gum line. Without this step, the plaque and bacteria that are under the gum line go undisturbed and continue to cause problems. Anesthesia today is safer than ever, with advanced monitoring equipment and highly trained veterinary technicians to monitor your pet’s safety and comfort.
We’ll evaluate all the structures in your pet’s mouth, take digital x-rays so we can see under the gumline and the bone below, and then polish your pet’s teeth to prevent further plaque buildup.
Pet dental care is a team sport, with you and your veterinarian working together to prevent and treat dental problems. At Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital, we firmly believe that an effective at-home dental care program, coupled with regular visits, can prevent dental disease.
Before we leap into a new year and everything awesome that awaits, we must pause and remember all that happened in the past year. After all, the lessons of 2017 will certainly give us a head start for the great opportunities in 2018. At Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital, we want to focus on what matters to you, and part of that means spotlighting our top five pet care blogs as determined by our readers.
From pet toxins to walking your dog like a pro, our aim is to enlighten, educate, and entertain owners with information to help you better care for your best friend. While gearing up for 2018, we hope you’ve gleaned some great information from our blog – and remember, we always welcome your suggestions for topics!
Before you get back to that long list of New Year’s resolutions, here’s a peek at some of our best 2017 blogs.
Our Top Five Pet Care Blogs of 2017
Pet Travel Tips For Sniffing Out New Destinations – Summer means hitting the open road (or friendly skies) for family vacations, but what about the family pet? It’s common to hire reputable pet boarders or pet sitters to care for your cat or dog while you’re away, but is it the only option? Certainly not! It’s a great idea to take your pet along, but what does pet travel actually entail? Fun is definitely secondary to safety, but they can go hand in hand with our list of tips and tricks. Read More…
Just Say No: Keeping Pets Away From Holiday Food – Holiday food is meant to be shared with family and friends, and many of us consider our pets bonafide members of our families. However, most of the rich foods we typically enjoy during the holiday season should be strictly off-limits for our furry friends. Read More…
Thunderstorm And Fireworks Anxiety In Pets: Helping Them Cope – As thunderstorm season and the 4th Of July approach, many pet owners know what to expect; a season dealing with a trembling, anxious, possibly destructive pet that is trying desperately to escape the noise and confusion that the summer months bring. Thunderstorm and fireworks anxiety is very common among pets, and for some it can be severe enough to turn into a real phobia. Read More…
Toxic Food For Pets – As the first leaves fall from the trees and autumn officially arrives, it’s easy to forget that fun and festive seasonal foods could be dangerous to your pet. In between planning Halloween parties and filling your home with the aromas of fall, be sure to steer clear of any of these toxic foods for pets. Read More…
The Ultimate Dog Care Guide For Working Pet Owners – Your dog knows the routine; in fact, he has come to expect it. He watches as you perform your daily rituals of showering, dressing, making coffee, and getting your supplies together. His tail wags hopefully as you tell him to “Be a good boy! See you tonight!” Although you can’t see him, he’s surely listening as your car drives away and he settles in to await your return in the evening. Read More…
From all of us at Wellesley-Natick, we look forward to seeing you and your pet soon. If we can be of any assistance in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call.
Have a happy and healthy New Year, everyone (including those with paws), from all of us here at Wellesley-Natick Animal Hospital!
The holidays are about many wonderful things but pet safety is always at the top of our list when this time of year rolls around again. While family, love, togetherness, gratitude, and community are collectively celebrated, holiday parties and gift-giving exchanges can reach epic proportions. Between the indulgent offerings table-side and the dazzling decorations, pets can be headed for a world of hurt. Keep your pet free from danger (and out of the ER) with our holiday pet safety tips.
Calmly approaching the weeks between Halloween and New Year’s is an effort of pure will. The long lines at every store, increased traffic, and freezing cold weather are all part of a recipe for utter frustration and fatigue. And you’re not alone.
Pets pick up on our heightened levels of stress, fear, and anxiety and often react in kind. Watch your pet’s behavior closely. Even if it’s not overly obvious, they could probably use a movie marathon cuddled next to their favorite person (that’s you), a nice long walk in nature, or extra playtime. If you notice that your pet seems restless or anxious and think they could benefit from less activities or fewer crowds, please bring them home and stick to their regular routine as much as possible.
To be sure, being in tune with your pet adds to your defense against holiday calamity. However, this doesn’t mean they’ll be free of the risks associated with accidental poisonings, injury, or illness.
Hosting a holiday party this year? While many pets embrace the sights and smells that come with strangers in the house, others tend to–well–freak out a bit. Even a well-trained, highly social animal has limits. Either way, make sure your pet has a place of refuge to return to when they’re tired and ready to rest. A quiet room with creature comforts is the perfect antidote.
Guests and Food
Please inform your guests of the following pet protocols:
Keep the door closed. Express concerns about your pet possibly getting out and bolting down the street.
Your pet should never be fed treats from the table. The result of rich, fatty meats and other indulgences can be pancreatitis, a painful condition that requires specialized veterinary care.
Alcohol is always off limits, as it can damage the liver and kidneys in small amounts.
Sugary treats sweetened with xylitol are highly toxic and, if eaten, may lead to a pet emergency.
Chocolate is responsible for sometimes life-threatening conditions.
Caffeine, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, and grapes/currants/raisins are also toxic.
Ask that any medications be stored off the ground and out of sight. This includes purses, coat pockets, luggage, etc.
Other Holiday Pet Safety Rules
Just to be sure that all your bases are covered this holiday season, we hope the following holiday pet safety tips will guide your way:
Presents (not just the food ones) wrapped up with ribbon can cause problems, often resulting in surgery when ingested.
Low-lying string lights can be enticing to chew on, causing shock or becoming an entanglement hazard.
Make sure your holiday tree is securely anchored.
Discourage your pet from drinking from the tree stand, as the water can contain toxins.
Imported snow globes can have antifreeze inside them, so be sure to keep them far out of a pet’s reach.
Lit candles can pose fire hazards (not to mention singed whiskers or burnt tails).
Many holiday plants can be poisonous. Do your research before placing potted plants on the floor.
If our team can assist you with further holiday pet safety questions or concerns, we hope you’ll reach out to us. We’re always here for you!
As the first leaves fall from the trees and autumn officially arrives, it’s easy to forget that fun and festive seasonal foods could be dangerous to your pet. In between planning Halloween parties and filling your home with the aromas of fall, be sure to steer clear of any of these toxic foods for pets.
Chocolate is a Toxic Food for Pets
Chocolate is one of the main stars of the Halloween treat lineup, but it’s an incredibly toxic food for pets. Your favorite chocolate bar contains theobromine and methylxanthines, both of which are dangerous to cats, dogs and exotic animals.
When ingested, chocolate will likely cause:
Increased heart rate
Seizures or tremors (in extreme cases)
You should always store chocolate and other candy where your pets cannot reach it. If you put some out on a table for a party, make sure to keep a close eye on your pet in order to prevent them from trying to indulge in a toxic sweet treat.
If you think your pet has eaten any chocolate, please call the veterinarians at Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital as soon as possible.
Alcohol Does Not Give Your Pets a Good Time
Alcohol is often served at Halloween parties. Not only does it help everyone feel more comfortable in costumes, but it also sets the mood for fun. Unfortunately, it does not have the same effect on animals.
Even the smallest amounts of alcohol can severely impact your pet’s central nervous system. Just like humans, animals that consume alcohol are likely to suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, and problems with coordination. Alcohol also negatively affects a pet’s ability to breathe and could cause tremors; it might even lead to a coma or death.
Caffeine Amps Up Pet Health Issues
Coffee, chocolate, and soda all contain caffeine and are often found at Halloween parties, as well. While caffeine might give humans a boost of much needed energy, it’s among one of the most toxic foods for pets.
Like chocolate, caffeine contains methylxanthines, which can lead to adverse physical reactions. If you notice your pet is vomiting, is having trouble breathing, is very thirsty, or is seizing, he or she might have ingested some caffeine. It’s important to call the vet immediately if you suspect this is the case.
Even Healthier Foods Can be Toxic
Some people add healthy snacks like nuts to the Halloween table, but these foods could also expose your pet to some toxic ingredients. High-fat nuts like almonds and walnuts upset your pet’s digestive system and might even cause pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts could lead to hyperthermia in dogs. Grapes and raisins are also toxic for pets and could lead to kidney failure.
The veterinary team at Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital is always here to help keep your pet healthy. Whether you think your pet got into some toxic food or you want to learn more about which foods to avoid, please give us a call.
Those of you who know us at Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital know that we have your pet’s best interest at heart. We are always searching for ways to bring the best medicine and the best care to your precious cargo. Laparoscopic pet surgeries allow us to provide the best in surgical care and optimal outcomes for our patients.
You Want to Put What in Where?
Laparoscopic procedures have been utilized in human medicine for several decades now and are the standard of care for many surgeries. This technique has (somewhat) recently crossed over into veterinary medicine, and we think it’s an amazing option for many types of procedures.
During a laparoscopic surgery, a small incision is made into the body, allowing us to insert a small camera (laparoscope) into the abdominal cavity. The abdomen is then filled with air to allow better visualization. One or two additional small (about 1 cm) incisions are also made to introduce surgical instruments. The surgeon can then view everything on a monitor and complete a wide variety of procedures without any additional trauma.
Many surgeries can be done using this method, including:
Prophylactic gastropexy (stomach tacking)
Abdominal organ biopsy
Better Living Through Laparoscopic Pet Surgeries
Sure, laparoscopic surgery is a neat option, but why would you choose it for your own pet? The extra surgical training and equipment is not without an additional cost from your pocket. We believe there are many reasons that laparoscopy, when appropriate, is the better choice, and which translate directly to better patient care and happier pets.
Benefits of laparoscopic surgery:
Decreased postoperative pain (we know in people that laparoscopic procedures hurt less than traditional surgeries)
Faster healing due to smaller incisions
Better visualization for the surgeon, which results in better outcomes
A less risky procedure with less pain and a faster recovery – what’s not to like? At Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital, we are proud to be able to offer this cutting edge technique to our pet patients. Offering laparoscopic pet surgeries is just one more way we are working to bring the best medicine to you and your furry family.
Please contact us if you have questions or would like to know if laparoscopy is an option for your pet.
Summer means hitting the open road (or friendly skies) for family vacations, but what about the family pet? It’s common to hire reputable pet boarders or pet sitters to care for your cat or dog while you’re away, but is it the only option? Certainly not! It’s a great idea to take your pet along, but what does pet travel actually entail? Fun is definitely secondary to safety, but they can go hand in hand with our list of tips and tricks.
Double Check Your List
Before you leave home with your pet’s collar, leash, and favorite toy, take a moment to consider all of the small preparation steps along the way–ones you may not have thought of.
If you’re driving, are you positive that your pet will enjoy a lengthy journey? Some pets get motion sickness. Please call us for help with that.
How are you going to ride with your pet in the vehicle? Some animals tend to get very excited in the car and may distract the driver. Contain your pet in his or her anchored travel kennel or attach the harness to the back seat only while driving.
Words to the Wise
On that note, please limit the quintessential doggy behavior of sticking their head out the window while the car is moving. Ear, eye, and respiratory infections can result from airborne debris.
One by Air?
Air travel can be a complicated challenge for pets, especially during the summer. Check with your airline first, then move ahead with their recommendations and safety protocols. You’ll be required to provide a health certificate signed and dated by one of our veterinarians.
Other Pet Travel Tips
When preparing for pet travel, we offer the following tips:
Print out your pet’s medical records and carry a recent printed photo of him or her.
Have a back-up stock of required medications and special food, if necessary.
Map out your route to get a handle on your ultimate destination; research veterinary hospitals in the area and have contact information ready in case your pet needs emergency care while you’re away from home.
Find dog parks or trails along the way to ease pet anxiety and boost wellness through exercise and socialization.
Book pet-friendly accommodations and check for the fine print related to pet travel at hotels, restaurants, and more.
Have a back-up pet boarder in the same city you’re visiting in case your pet cannot handle the hotel room or won’t join you on certain recreational day trips.
Bring portable water and food bowls.
Prepare a pet first aid kit.
Pack extra waste bags.
Bring along urine stain remover and deodorizer.
Don’t forget toys and other creature comforts.
Return Safe and Sound
Remember to take frequent breaks from the car or hotel room, keep regular meal times, and watch closely for any behavioral changes. Lastly, never leave your pet unattended inside a parked vehicle.
From our family to yours, we hope our pet travel tips help you plan a safe and fun family vacation. Happy trails (and tails!).
We know that we’ll probably outlive our pets, and it’s this fact that helps us walk alongside them for as long as possible. Thanks in part to modern veterinary research and medicine, however, pets are living longer than ever. Instead of managing health problems after they develop, it’s now recommended that a pet be seen for routine examinations and diagnostics to prevent health problems. The result of supporting general pet wellness every 6 months? Pets and their owners get more of what they’ve always wanted: extra time together.
Younger pets need a bit more help in the beginning. To be sure, establishing the foundation of lifelong health is more successful when it’s done early on (it also helps with the creation of a positive vet experience during the sensitive period of development). We address vaccinations, microchipping, spaying or neutering, and parasite prevention, but we also take on behavioral needs, nutrition, lifestyle, dental care, and exercise.
The health of puppies and kittens is sustained through regular visits, and the average is twice a year.
Don’t Forget Senior Pets!
The life spans of the pets we know and love are compressed, and they age faster than we do. Because of this, age-related illnesses can begin to emerge around the age of 7. When we see your pet twice a year, we’re given the important opportunity to slow the progression of illness – or provide treatment early enough to cure it.
Pet Wellness Every 6 Months
When your pet has access to veterinary support every 6 months, he or she receives the most advanced care possible. Vaccination boosters never lapse, diagnostics are taken to compare to the last visit (which can be very helpful in detecting developing illness), dental care is maintained, and any attention to weight changes or nutrition are part of the continuing conversation.
We encourage pet owners to bring any notes they’ve taken between visits. Daily observations can add a great deal of context to possible health challenges, and we always take the time to answer any questions about your pet’s health.
Without regular pet wellness exams, common problems can sneak up on you. Chronic or life-threatening illnesses such as liver disease, kidney disease, cancer, and diabetes can develop without many obvious signs. Since your cat or dog can’t tell you when they feel sick or are in pain, it’s critical to provide access to routine check-ups.
If we can assist you with any questions or concerns related to pet wellness, our staff is always here for you.