Pet Health

Understanding Tapeworms Like It or Not

posted July 15th, 2011 by
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By Nancy Gallimore Werhane

If you are squeamish, this may not be the article for you. Fair warning. But if you are a concerned pet owner, this is a topic you need to understand, so steel yourself and read on because frankly, your veterinarian may need your help to diagnose this one.

The topic? The mysterious tapeworm. Also formally known as the disgusting tapeworm.

So why in the world should we even discuss this parasite? You take your cats and dogs to the veterinarian for checkups, right? Your veterinarian checks for things like this. Right? Well, here’s the ugly truth. While your veterinarian can screen your pets for many intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms and whipworms, the sneaky tapeworm evades detection in standard screenings.

How then, you may ask, is your pet diagnosed with tapeworms? Good question. Otherwise healthy dogs or cats may have tapeworm infections with no outward symptoms. That means detection often comes when you actually see them. Yes, you. Yes, see them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ok, let’s sort this out. Perhaps it’s best to start at the end. Literally. Tapeworms are most often diagnosed when someone notices what appear to be little white worms either in a pet’s stool or left behind where the dog or cat was sitting. The most common description is that they look like little pieces of squirming white rice. They might also be diagnosed by the discovery of what appears to be little grains of dried brown rice or seeds around the dog or cat’s anus. Why we compare both to food items is hard to fathom, but there you have it.

According to Dr. Dennis Henson of Hammond Animal Hospital in Tulsa, these little pieces are not the actual worms, but are segments of an adult tapeworm. “As the tapeworm matures,” explained Dr. Henson, “ it drops tail segments called proglottids, that are mobile. Each proglottid is a separate reproductive unit that contains the eggs of the tapeworm. These egg packets then pass in the feces of the dog or cat.”

That’s what makes tapeworm detection a bit tricky. With other parasites, the eggs shed directly in the animal’s feces.

Because the tapeworm eggs shed so neatly packaged, unless the segments disintegrate first, which rarely happens, they don’t show up in a traditional fecal test. The culprit in the spread of the most common form of tapeworm found in our pets is the common flea. Unlike other parasites, tapeworms require an intermediate host to complete their reproductive cycle. So here’s the Reader’s

Digest version of how it works:

  • A flea larvae eats fecal matter that contains tapeworm eggs.
  • The eggs hatch inside the flea and become cysticercoids.
  • A dog or cat may then swallow a flea that contains these cysticercoids.
  • The flea passes into the dog or cat’s intestine where it is broken down, releasing the cysticercoids.
  • The cysticercoids then develop into adult tapeworms that attach to the lining of the animal’s intestine and feed off the nutrients.

This is where we come full circle back to the part where the segments containing the eggs shed and the cycle is allowed to start all over again. Isn’t nature fun?

You may think your pet is safe because you religiously follow a flea prevention routine and don’t have fleas in your home environment. According to Dr. Henson, yes, that helps, but it does not guarantee that your pet will not be infested by tapeworms. “Your pet only has to swallow one infected flea,” said Henson. “A dog who goes for a walk where other animals have been or a cat who strays from its own yard can easily ingest a flea even with flea preventatives in use.”

There is also another type of tapeworm that is transmitted through small rodents, such as mice, rats, squirrels or rabbits, that serve as the intermediate host. If you have a hunter in your midst — and what dog or cat won’t occasionally partake of a “natural diet” when opportunity presents itself — then you have yet another avenue for the tapeworm to find its way into your pet’s intestinal tract.

According to Dr. Henson, there is some good news here. First, unless left unchecked for a very long period of time, tapeworms don’t generally cause a lot of damage in pets. Second, because they must have a very specific intermediate host, tapeworms cannot be transmitted directly from pet to pet or through contact with infected feces. Without a proper host, the tapeworm just can’t exist. It’s hard to imagine, but if your pet must have a parasite, the tapeworm may be the best of the pack. Of course that doesn’t mean we love them. We don’t. So let’s discuss how to get rid of them.

Dr. Henson advises that most over-the-counter worm treatments are not effective for tapeworms. He suggests you call your veterinarian to report your find. “Today’s treatment for tapeworms is simple and effective,” said Henson. “The medication we prescribe causes the tapeworm to lose its protective layer and it is simply digested. You will not see them pass, they just basically disappear.”

The most common medication prescribed is called Droncit® and it comes in the form of a chewable tablet that is apparently quite tasty to pets. Problem solved.

Oh, and in case you are worried, apparently humans rarely get tapeworms. It is possible that you could swallow a flea, and yes, you could get a tapeworm that way, but humans are more likely to come down with a species of tapeworm that is passed through raw or undercooked meat or fish. Just a little something to think about as you sit down to enjoy that next round of sushi or sashimi. Still rare, people. Don’t panic.

So all in all, while tapeworms are truly disgusting, on the scale of parasitic infections, they do rank as fairly harmless. Now take your new knowledge, go forth and watch your pet do number two. Your veterinarian is counting on you.

K-9 Chiropractic? Who Knew?

posted April 12th, 2011 by
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Dr  Duree pic I

 For over 100 years here in the United States, Doctors of Chiropractic have been treating human spines and extremities.   Why not treat dogs too?   Doctors Certified in Animal Chiropractic do just that!

Chiropractic is the healthcare science that focuses on optimal joint function.  With chiropractic, the patient, as a whole person or a whole dog, is the center of care, not just the symptom or the disease process.   The goal of treatment is to restore and to maintain full function of the joints.  Doing so improves the neurological aspect of health.  

What usually brings a patient to the chiropractor is pain.  With dogs, pain may take on many forms.   Your dog may have difficulty climbing, jumping, or walking.   He may not be able to get up from a laying or sitting position.   He may resist any movement as you attempt tugging on the leash to go forward.  You also may see him shaking his head frequently.   There could be problems with eating or lack of interest in playing with toys.   Other signs of pain could include abnormal postures when standing or sitting, or holding the tail to one side instead of wagging it from side to side.   A dog may demonstrate behavioral changes like snapping, or may not be interested in playing with family members

What causes these changes in the dog’s ability to perform normal, usual activities?   It may be that the dog jumped from a great height or was hit by a car.   Or a series of micro traumas may occur over a span of time that has a cumulative effect.  Jumping in and out of cars, jerking at the leash and riding in a car with sudden starts and stops are examples of micro traumas.  Dogs that perform agility, flyball and herding may be prone to joint strain due to the high physical demands of these activities.

And with age, degenerative changes occur at the joints and the intervertebral discs just like with humans.   This degenerative process is accelerated if the joint dysfunction goes untreated. If the dog is overweight, the additional weight strains the joints in an ongoing way every minute of the day.

Chiropractic treatment helps to restore normal joint dysfunction.   And in so doing, the treatment relieves pain, helps promote full healing, restores and maintains full function and prevents accelerated degeneration.

Most dogs enjoy the treatment.   The doctor starts by performing a complete examination, including taking a complete history and doing a gait analysis.  Chiropractic adjustments are performed by hand in a gentle manner using very little force.  

The speed of recovery depends on many different factors.   The longer the condition has been present, the longer the recovery.   Older dogs will heal more slowly, but the quality of life will improve with treatment.  Much depends on how much damage has been done to the nervous system and the joints’ soft tissues, and/or damage to the spinal cord, the spinal nerve and/or the disc and joint tissues.   The speed of recovery also depends upon how well the dog’s owner cooperates with the recommendations of the doctor.  If the doctor recommends that the dog be rested in the kennel for two days, it is important to do so for the best result.   If the doctor advises that the dog be walked on leash and not allowed to run free, then it is important to do so for the best result.

The power that made the body also heals the body.  There are no unrealistic goals…only unrealistic time frames for healing.

Dr. Willa Duree, D.C., CCSP, CAC

Doctor of Chiropractic for humans, dogs and horses.

Utilizing spinal decompression and cold laser therapies.

www.doctorduree.com

Shawnee, OK  74802

These Little Piggies Stay Home

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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BY LOU ANNE EPPERLEY, DVM

• Feed potbellied pig feed to potbellied pigs (NOT dog food or commercial hog ration). Pigs enjoy fruit, vegetables, melon and hard  corn-on-the-cob. Don’t over-feed! Obese pigs are prone to joint, foot  and heart problems.
• Pigs enjoy grazing, so house pets should have regular outdoor time. Don’t allow pigs to eat grass that has been treated with weed killer or  insecticide.
• In summer heat, outdoor pigs need access to a wading pool or mud,  and shade.
• Never leave a pig unattended in the presence of dogs. Even a friendly  dog can pose a threat. I’ve surgically treated many pigs for severe  dog-bite injuries.
• In cold weather, an outdoor pig needs an insulated, draft-free shelter  with straw or several blankets. Pigs instinctively root and wrap up in  blankets. Unzipped human sleeping bags work great.
• Most pigs’ hooves need trimming once to twice annually. Males generally also need their tusks trimmed at that time.
• Check for ticks regularly. Frontline® flea and tick prevention is safe  for pet pigs, if needed. Pigs also are susceptible to sarcoptic mange,  an itchy skin disease that can be diagnosed and treated by your  veterinarian.
• Potbellied pigs’ skin becomes increasingly dry as they age. Some  have found that Avon Skin-so-Soft® helps soften the skin. An  Omega-3 fatty acid food supplement might be helpful. Most pigs  shed their hair coat annually in summer and re-grow it.

Miniature Pet Pigs

A handful of reputable U.S. breeders of miniature pet pigs have been  in the business for at least 20 years.  Hundreds of rejected pet pigs,  however, end up in animal shelters annually because the owners did not  think-through their purchase and do their homework. Whether buying a  pig or adopting a rescue pig, first find out whether pigs are legal in your  municipality. Then read up on how to care for one. A great resource is  Potbellied Pig Parenting, a manual by long-time breeder Nancy Shepherd  of Rocheport, Mo.

Cancer in Pets Similar to Human Disease

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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BY DERINDA D. BLAKENEY

KIMBERLY REEDS, DvM, recently joined Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences as an assistant professor of oncology. She works at the Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital treating dogs and cats with cancer.

“Dogs and cats get cancers comparable to the ones humans get,” explains Reeds. “The types of cancer are very similar to those diagnosed in humans and similar cancers appear in both small animal species such as lymphoma and skin tumors. The most common cancers we treat are lymphoma and mast cell tumors in dogs.”

While attending OSU’s veterinary college, Reeds’ interest in oncology was sparked one summer working on a research project.

Dr. Kimberly Reeds examines Sahara as registered veterinary technician, Lisa Gallery, holds the dog.

“I liked being able to offer help to people who didn’t think any help was available for their pet,” she says. “Cancer is a devastating diagnosis. I want people to understand that usually there is something we can do to extend the patient’s life or at least make it better. A cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. In most cases there is still hope.”

She recommends a veterinary examination when pet owners notice sudden changes in behavior or appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, the presence of a mass or a swelling that doesn’t go away or persistent pain. However, not all of these symptoms lead to a cancer diagnosis.

In animals, the protocol for cancer treatment differs from humans.

“The first option in general for animals is surgery to remove the cancer followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation, except for lymphoma. There is usually no surgical option for lymphoma so it’s straight to chemotherapy treatment, which varies in length of time for treatment.”

Depending on the diagnosis, chemotherapy may last 3-6 months or some longer-term chemo treatments may be for an indefinite time, with the owner giving the pet a pill daily.

“The side effects vary depending on the drug itself, the drug dose and the intensity of the drug protocol. Some animals experience gastro intestinal upset, but in general, dogs and cats actually handle chemotherapy pretty well.

They don’t experience the expectation that it will cure them. Animals also do not lose their hair during treatment like most people do. It’s a rare occurrence when that happens.”

OSU’s veterinary hospital offers surgical and medical oncology services.

“We are approved to use the new melanoma vaccine, which is not available in many private practices. We maintain an inventory of most of the common chemotherapy drugs as well as the new anti-cancer drug, Palladia, which is used to treat mast cell tumors in dogs.”

She notes that access to a wide variety of specialists provides for consulting regarding “each other’s cases often as a team of doctors to try to come up with the best plan to obtain the best possible outcome for our patients.”

“Our focus is on extending the patient’s life while maintaining a good quality of life.” Reeds recalls a dog she treated during her oncology residency.

“I treated a chocolate female lab owned by the nicest older gentleman. The dog had a thyroid tumor in her neck. Whenever he brought her in for treatments as he would see me walk toward them, he would lean down and say to the dog, ‘Look, here comes your BFF (Best Friend Forever), Dr. Reeds.’ I smile whenever I think of that and know I made a difference in her life and her owner’s life. I gave them quality time and hope for one more good day and that is priceless.”

Following graduation from OSU’s veterinary college, she practiced for a year in Texas, then returned to OSU for advanced study of tumors. She completed a one-year Radiation Therapy Internship at Purdue University and a three-year Residency in Oncology at Kansas State University before joining OSU’s faculty. She is currently completing an M.S. degree in Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Kansas State University and the requirements for board certification as a veterinary oncologist.

For Information:
Dr. Kimberly Reeds – (405) 744-7000

Vet Field Trip Fascinates Kids

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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STORY BY KRISTI EATON

PHOTOS BY BOB FOSHAY(FOSHAY STUDIO & GALLERY)

HUDDLED In A TINY surgical suite, about  the size of a walk-in closet, seven secondgraders watch as Kevin Long, DVM, reaches  for a sharp blade. There are more observers  standing outside, peeking through a window  into the suite.

Clad in surgery mask, scrubs and gloves,  Long, the veterinarian at Good Shepherd  Veterinary Hospital in Broken Arrow, places  the blade against Ruff Ruff’s belly. He slowly  moves the blade from end-to-end on the  canine, making a long incision.

Earlier, the students watched Long weigh  Ruff Ruff and do a physical examination of the  dog’s heart, lungs, ears, eyes and mouth. The  canine was being checked because he swallowed an unknown object and was suffering  from abdominal  discomfort. The students were allowed to feel  his belly and guess what the object could be.

“It feels like a fork,” says one student.  “No, it  feels like a magnifying glass,” says another.

An X-ray showed that Ruff Ruff swallowed  scissors and Long decided surgery was necessary. 

“I’m scared. That’s scary,” one girl says, as  Long selects the blade.

“It’s OK. It’s all pretend,” the vet says.

In fact, the sweeping cut Long made along  Ruff Ruff’s belly wasn’t real at all.  Velcro was all  that kept Long from opening up Ruff Ruff’s stomach and removing the scissors.

Ruff Ruff is a toy, a Pillow Pet borrowed from  Long’s 3-year-old son.

The kids, second-  and third-graders  from Immanuel  Lutheran Christian  Academy, along  with various home  school students,  are on a field trip to  learn proper animal  care and what a  veterinarian does. It’s the second  field trip Long has  hosted and he  hopes to make it a regular event.

“The more kids that want to experience what  it’s like to be a veterinarian, that’s what we  want,” he says.

In addition to watching Ruff Ruff’s “treatment,” the 35 students saw how X-ray equipment works, viewed blood under a microscope,  and were given stethoscopes to listen to the  real heart beats of Betty, a 7-year-old Spaniel  mix owned by vet technician DeAndra Roberts,  and Sugar, whose owner, Adrienne Ashworth,  is the receptionist at Good Shepherd.

Ellis Stevens, 8, says he enjoyed looking  at the X-ray and discovering what was inside  Ruff Ruff’s stomach, while Taylor Mosby,  also 8, says her favorite part of the field trip  was the surgery “because you could see him  (Long) open him up.” She also enjoyed looking  through the microscope at the blood, something she is currently learning about at school.

Long says he enjoys letting the students feel  Ruff Ruff’s stomach and guess what could be  inside, similar to what he does as a vet.

“They’re literally doing what I do on a live animal – to see if I can feel something in there. It’s  a very important part of what we do,” he says. “It’s fun to see their eyes light up when they feel  something because I don’t think they’re expecting that. Their mind starts churning and then  they get excited about the X-ray….You can see  their brains starting to turn. ”

He also hopes the students will take away knowledge about proper pet care. “We want kids to  know the right thing to do, so when their animal is sick,  they know the vet is where they go,” he says. “It’s like  when your stomach is sick, you know your mom takes  you to the doctor.”

The field trips grew out of a discussion between  Long and his wife, Stacey, a kindergarten teacher  at Immanuel Lutheran. Long, who graduated from  Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary  Medicine in 2002, believes his classmates with veterinary parents had a leg-up in school,  they had experience touching animals and knowing the ins and outs of  how things work in the office, he says.

“Students like me, without parents who were vets, it  was almost like a little bit of catch up.”

When the couple designed the Good Shepherd  clinic, they wanted the space to be family-friendly and  conducive to learning. Every room has a window and  mothers can watch what their kids are doing from the  waiting area.

“So the room works in both directions, providing a  learning opportunity from the outside in, and the mom  being able to watch her kids from the inside out,” Long  says.

The field trips, open to 3-year-olds to high school  students and all area schools – public, private and  home school, are held once weekly. The 1.5 hour visits  ideally include up to 30 students.

They are developing curricula for the older students,  who will see and experience more technical aspects. For example, high school students will see and examine real X-rays and may get to observe surgeries.

The field trips are currently free, thanks to grants  from the Future Vet Program that has covered the cost  of the stethoscopes provided to the students. Merial  drug company donated plastic ticks. If the funding  eventually runs out, Long says he may charge $1 or $2 for the stethoscopes, but it will still be a reasonable  price, he says.

For Information

Good Shepherd Veterinary Hospital
Lynn Lane and Broken Arrow Expressway,
Broken Arrow
www.goodshepherdvets.com
918-893-3400

Just So You Know the Risks

posted February 9th, 2011 by
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Waking up from a profound sleep

As much as you and Fido may enjoy sharing a bed together, new research says

he could make you very sick.

In an article in this month’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, author

Bruno B. Chomel said although stories of pets making their humans sick are

rare, it does happen.

In the United States, more than 60 percent of households have a pet.

And people are increasingly turning to a pet instead of having children.

Pets can bring positive health benefits in the way of psychological support,

friendship, and good health practices like exercising or reducing stress,

but he cautions against the harmful effects as well.

“Sharing our resting hours with our pets may be a source of psychological

comfort, but because pets can bring a wide range of zoonotic pathogens into

our environment, sharing is also associated with risks,” he wrote in the

paper.

The zooneses include the spreading of the plague, rabies and parasitic

diseases.

He said kissing or licking a pet could cause even more zoonotic infections,

especially for children who are more vulnerable to infection.

He discouraged people, especially young children or those with compromised

immune systems to share a bed or kiss or lick a pet.

“Any area licked by a pet, especially for children or immunocompromised

persons or an open wound, should be immediately washed with soap and water,”

he said.

– Kristi Eaton