Thursday, April 28, 2011

Q: Can Worms get transferred to people?

Dr. Schaeberle,

What are intestinal parasites? Can they be transferred to people?

“Scared of Worms”


Dear Scared of Worms,

The term intestinal parasites is a broad name that includes worms, protozoa and other intestinal organisms.

Worms are a very common finding in all animals and of all ages. The types of worms that are commonly seen are roundworms, whipworms, hookworms and tape worms. Giardia is routinely tested for, but is actually not a worm, rather a type of protozoa.

Puppies and kittens are often born with roundworms because the mother will harbor small numbers of eggs, passing them through the placenta. Other sources of infestation are from the environment (yard, woods, soil, etc), contaminated feces (from other pets, farm animals, raccoons, etc) or eating contaminated animals (fleas, mice, birds, bugs, earthworms, etc). Intestinal parasites are common causes of diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss. Another concern is their risk of zoonosis, which is the spread of disease from animals to humans.

If contracted from an infected animal or source, a human may develop gastrointestinal problems, but also a condition called larval migrans. Larval migrans is when the larvae of worms stray from the intestines, traveling under the skin, within the eye or even into the brain.

Due to the implications for your pet (diarrhea, etc) and the chance of spread to us, it is important that a stool sample be checked by your veterinarian at your pet’s annual wellness exam or anytime they develop diarrhea. If your pet has tested positive, repeat testing is usually done to make sure the treatment was effective. Occasionally a negative sample is obtained despite the presence of worms because adult worms are not constantly shedding their eggs. Specific de-worming medications are prescribed based on the fecal results and/or your veterinarian’s suspicion of intestinal parasites.

Another important source of prevention is monthly heartworm prevention. Not only will these pills prevent heartworm disease, they will also treat for round worms, hook worms and sometimes whip worms. It is important to understand that these medications, including the heartworm pill, are only one time treatments. Your pet can be re-infected after receiving the medication and will remain infected until either the next dose of heartworm prevention is given or more de-worming medication is dispensed.

Thomas Schaeberle, VMD

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Keep Pets Safe from the Easter Bunny!

Keep your pets safe from the Easter Bunny.

For millions of families, the celebration of Easter includes Easter baskets filled with sweet treats galore — chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, sugary jelly beans and snack-size versions of nearly every candy product imaginable.

As parents, we often warn our children “Now don’t eat too much or you’ll make yourself sick.” At worst, a child who stuffs him or herself with chocolate may develop a stomachache.

But for our furry friends who get into the Easter goodies, “getting sick” may be the least of it. Many of the sweet treats mentioned above can actually be fatal to our pets.

Chocolate is one of the most deadly foods for pets (both cats and dog) Dark chocolate is worst, and white chocolate has the lowest risk. It’s not only high in fat (pets don’t need lots of fat any more than humans do), it contains two nervous system stimulants, caffeine and theobromine. The fat can make your pet vomit or cause diarrhea — unpleasant, but usually not fatal, but it’s the stimulants that sometimes cause death.

Theobromine is both a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic. A dog that ingests an overdose of chocolate may be fine at first, but will probably become excited and hyperactive within a few hours. It may pass large quantities of urine and become unusually thirsty. The theobromine will cause your pet’s heart rate to accelerate or beat irregularly, either of which can cause death.

But it’s not just chocolate that’s the problem. All sugary foods can cause dental problems, lead to obesity, and contribute to diabetes in pets, too. So be sure to keep your stash of chocolate securely out of your pet’s reach.

Children are notorious for sorting and trading candy, so make sure they don’t leave candy laying around (or candy wrappers, either, which can cause choking) Don’t forget how flexible and persistent a pet can be when it smells something yummy in a trash bin or garage sack, either.

If your think your pet may have ingested a harmful food , please call your vet immediately. If your vet is closed, call an emergency vet center. If you don’t have one of those in your area you can call one of the national animal poison control lines such as the Pet Poison Helpline: 1-800-213-6680.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Q: Sugar Free Candies and Pets

Sugar Free candy this holiday?

Not safe for pets!

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol -- an artificial sweetener created from birch, raspberries, plums and corn. This sweetener is found in many human “sugar free” products, such as gum, candies and other sweets. In humans, high doses may have a mild laxative effect, but in dogs, ingestion could be fatal.

It has been known for quite some time that there is a link between xylitol ingestion and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in dogs. Now, with the prevalence of this sweetener in human foods, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has noted a connection between xylitol consumption and acute toxicity in dogs.

Signs of toxicity can be seen as quickly as 30 minutes after xylitol ingestion in dogs. The xylitol causes a rapid release of the hormone insulin, causing a sudden decrease in blood glucose. This in turn may cause the following symptoms:

* Vomiting
* Weakness
* Ataxia (uncoordinated movements)
* Depression
* Hypokalemia (decreased potassium)
* Seizures
* Coma
* Liver dysfunction and/or failure

Xylitol is found in many products. The most common xylitol item is sugar-free gum. Gum can be found everywhere, and is often tempting to dogs. Keep gum out of reach - watch out for open pockets, purses, counter tops, and in the car. Xylitol can also be found in sugar-free (low carb and diabetic) candies, baked goods, some pharmaceuticals and many dental products, including mouthwashes, mints and toothpastes. Only use pet toothpaste for pets, never human toothpaste.

Thomas Schaeberle, VMD

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Q: Hernias in pets?

Dr. Schaeberle,

My vet said that my new puppy “Chloe” has an umbilical hernia. How serious is this?

Chloe’s Mom


Dear Chloe’s Mom,

The umbilicus is that area on the middle of the abdomen where the umbilical cord was attached. It looks like a little scar on her belly and is most commonly referred to as her belly button.

After birth, when the umbilical cord is detached, this opening in the abdominal wall is supposed to close. Occasionally the hole remains open, and only the skin heals over it. This hole in the abdominal wall is referred to as a hernia. If the hernia is small, some belly fat may push through it and cause a bulge under the skin. If it is bigger, then a loop of intestine may be able to push through. Either of these may get trapped or strangulated, which can become very painful, and even life threatening. If found soon enough, it can be corrected quickly and safely by your veterinarian. Fortunately, most hernias are small enough to wait and be fixed when a pet is spayed or castrated, but if it is a larger hernia, it may need to be done sooner.

The most commonly accepted cause for this is a genetic defect, and thus breeding is discouraged. Some people argue that hernias can be caused by trauma when the mother chews off the umbilical cord. In that case, breeding would be acceptable. However, we know that certain breeds seem to be more prone to hernias and that it is not uncommon for a dog to pass this defect along to their offspring.

The good news is that hernias are rarely life threatening. Since genetics is most often the cause, it is always encouraged to have your pet spayed or neutered so they don’t continue to pass that bad gene along. If you were planning on breeding Chloe, you need to discuss these issues with your veterinarian.

Good luck and have fun with your new puppy.

Thomas Schaeberle, VMD

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