Heat Stroke in Pets

July 28th, 2010

Heat stroke is the common term for hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature. In pets, a body temperature higher than 103°F (39.4°C) is considered hyperthermic. Elevated body temperature becomes life-threatening when it reaches 109°F (42.7°C).  In dogs, body temperature is regulated primarily by panting. Dogs have only a small number of sweat glands in their footpads, so they cannot perspire to cool off.

The most common cause of heat stroke in cats and dogs is leaving a pet in a car without adequate ventilation. Never leave any animal in a parked vehicle in warm weather, no matter how briefly. The inside temperature can skyrocket to a dangerous level in a few short minutes, even with the windows cracked open. The pet’s temperature can rise rapidly and lead to collapse, often within minutes.

Heat stroke in pets can also result from leaving a pet in a yard on a hot day without access to shade or water, and excessive or vigorous exercise when it is hot. Too much excitement or exercise can put a dog at risk even when the temperature or humidity does not seem extreme. Flat-faced dogs (Pugs, Boxers, and Bulldogs) are at greater risk because of their narrow, short airways. Muzzled dogs may not be able to pant freely.

Any infection that causes a fever can lead to hyperthermia. Seizures or severe muscle spasms can also increase body temperature.

Heat stroke in a cat or dog is an emergency that required safe, controlled reduction of body temperature. Cool water or cold cloths may be placed on the head, stomach, underarms and feet. Rubbing alcohol may be applied to the footpads. Ice may be placed around the mouth and anus. The dog’s rectal temperature should be monitored, and treatment stopped when the rectal temperature decreases to 103°F (39.4°C).

Most otherwise healthy pets can recover from heat stroke if their body temperature did not become extremely high. The prognosis depends on how high the pet’s temperature climbed, how long it lasted, and the physical condition of the pet before the heat exposure.

 

Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD
and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
  All content on WebVet is reviewed annually by Vets to guarantee its timeliness and accuracy.

Allergies and Your Pet

May 20th, 2010

Sometimes a severe reaction occurs between a substance and the immune system of the body.  This is called an “ALLERGIC REACTION,” and may be caused by dust, weeds, molds, grass, foods, fleas., as well as many other materials.

In humans, the reaction that occurs usually affects the respiratory system, causing breathing problems such as asthma.  A different type of chemical reaction usually occurs in the body of the dog and cat. The major sign that occurs as a result of this particular type of allergic reaction is usually itching. The itching causes the pet to chew and scratch; which, in turn causes more damage to the skin. The skin often becomes infected or thickened from prolonged chewing and scratching. 

Some allergic reactions occur as soon as exposure occurs, but most reactions are delayed; and don’t become evident for 3-7 days after the exposure. This can make determination of the causative agent very difficult. Often a pet that develops an allergy will develop other  allergies later in life, which makes control even more frustrating at times.

An allergy never develops the first time exposure occurs. It takes time for the body to develop an allergy to a particular substance.  Remember people and pets are similiar in that they become allergic to what they are exposed to the MOST!!  So your pet is most likely to become allergy to a substance it is in contact with on a daily basis! This is the reason many pets do not develop an allergy until the later years of life.

The most common allergy seen in the dog and cat is the result of flea bites. The pet becomes allergic to the PROTEIN in the SALIVA of the flea. The reaction can occur after only one flea bite!!  Many times there will be no fleas on the pet when it is examined, which causes the owner to question the diagnosis. Remember  MOST ALLERGIC REACTIONS OCCUR 3-7 DAYS AFTER THE EXPOSURE TO THE ALLERGENIC SUBSTANCE.

Allergies are often NOT PREVENTABLE; but CONTROL with medications is effective,  as long as the owner will follow our instructions and continue treatment. You must be patient and realize that the condition probably will recur throughout the pet’s life, if and when exposure occurs.

The secret is to get proper medical attention as soon as signs of allergy are seen.  Prompt treatment will prevent the skin lesions from becoming more severe.

Initial recommendations are to control flea infestation.  Fighting fleas is a constant war because:

• The flea’s life cycle can involve more than one year’s time.
• Most of the life cycle of the flea occurs off the pet.
• Premises may be contaminated with fleas from other animals.

Fleas must be kept off the pet to control the allergic reaction. There are many topical flea treatments available at our hospital that will help control fleas. Treatment of the house and yard is sometimes still necessary in areas highly infested with fleas.

Once flea allergy is eliminated or controlled, then we can move on to other aspects of the problem  such as food allergy, contact allergy, and inhaled allergies. We find that if the flea allergy can be controlled, it then becomes much easier to control the other problems in most cases. We highly recommend “allergy testing” or referral to a dermatologist in dogs with recurrent allergies that are difficult to control with oral medications.

Internal Parasites in Dogs and Cats

April 29th, 2010

INTERNAL PARASITES IN DOGS AND CATS
Dogs and cats can become hosts to many intestinal parasites and a few general statements apply to all parasitic infections:

 All deworming medicines are poisonous to some extent and should only be used as needed and under proper conditions.
 At this time there is no one dewormer that can eliminate all species of parasites.  Consequently an accurate diagnosis is necessary to treat your pet properly.
 Diagnosis is usually made from a fresh stool sample (passed less than 12 hours) or, in the case of tapeworms, seeing the segments in the stool.
 Most puppies and kittens are infected before birth and, for this reason, will need deworming starting at 6 weeks of age. If hookworms are suspected, stools should be checked starting as early as 2-3 weeks. 
 Occasionally, for a heavy parasitic infection, 3 or even 4 treatments may be necessary to eliminate the parasite.
 The following is a brief description of the common intestinal parasites with their symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and human transmission.
ROUNDWORMS:
This is a common worm of puppies and kittens, but can be seen in any age dog or cat. Diagnosis is made from a microscopic examination of the feces or from a description of the worm if it is seen in the stool or vomitus. Treatment is an oral medication given at 2 -3 week intervals.  Symptoms will vary from none to marked vomiting and diarrhea, and abdominal swelling.  Transmission to adult dogs and cats occurs by infected feces contaminating the yard. As a result, prevention is accomplished by isolating your pet from infected feces of other animals. For dogs, the heartworm preventives also prevent roundworm infection. Transmission to humans is rare; young children can develop “visceral larval migrans” by eating dirt contaminated with feces.
HOOKWORMS:
This is also a common worm of puppies and kittens but is seen with equal frequency in adults.  This parasite sucks your pet’s blood and can cause severe anemia.  Diagnosis is made from a microscopic examination of your pet’s stool.  Treatment is either an oral medication or an injection or both.  This is repeated 2-3 weeks later.  Symptoms will vary from none to blood in the stool (dark tar-colored stool) with diarrhea.  Severe cases may need a transfusion and hospitalization.  Transmission to adults occurs by infected feces contaminating the grass or soil.  Prevention, therefore, requires that the pet be kept away from contaminated areas.  Certain types of heartworm preventive can also prevent hookworm infections in dogs. Transmission to humans is uncommon and is usually shows up as skin lesions.                                          
WHIPWORMS:
This worm affects dogs only. Diagnosis is also made from a microscopic exam of the feces.  Eggs from this parasite pass intermittently, however, so it may be necessary to check multiple fecals before a diagnosis is made. Treatment is an oral or injectable medication given at 3-week intervals for several treatments depending on the severity of the infection.  Symptoms vary from none to a severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, and marked weight loss. Some dogs require hospitalization for treatment of dehydration, malnutrition, and infection. There is no human transmission.
TAPEWORMS:
This common worm affects both dogs and cats. Transmission occurs when your dog or cat bites and “eats” a flea, or by ingesting other wildlife animals feces (rabbits, etc). The intermediate form of the tapeworm is inside the flea’s body and it then attaches to the intestine and begins to grow “segments”. In about 3 weeks, these segments begin to pass in the stool. They are approximately ¼ to ½ inch long, flat, and white. After a short time in the air, they dry up to resemble a small yellow flat seed.  Diagnosis is made from seeing these segments on the stool or on the pet’s back end rather than a microscopic fecal exam. Treatment is either by oral tablets or by an injection. The tapeworm infection kills existing tapeworms but it does not prevent future infection. The only prevention is strict flea control. There is no direct transmission from dog or cat to a human.
GIARDIA:
This parasite is not a worm. It is a very tiny single-celled parasite that can live in the intestines of dogs, cats, and man.  Giardia lives in areas of standing water like lakes and ponds.  It is seen most commonly in dogs living in these areas or coming out of kennel-type situations (pet stores, shelters, dog pounds, etc.) but its incidence is increasing.  Symptoms include intermittent or continuous diarrhea, weight loss, depression, and loss of appetite. Diagnosis is made from a very fresh fecal specimen that must be collected at the clinic for optimum results.  A surprising number of affected animals are “occult”; that is, they are infected but are negative on these tests even with multiple examinations. As a result, this parasite is often treated without a confirming diagnosis.  Treatment is an oral medication administered at home. Prevention involves careful disposal of all fecal material and cleaning contaminated areas. Humans can become infected with Giardia so special care must be taken to wash hands and utensils.
COCCIDIA:
This is also a single-celled parasite. It is seen primarily in puppies and kittens, although debilitated adults can also be affected.  Transmission occurs by eating the infective stage of the parasite. It then reproduces in the intestinal tract causing no symptoms in mild cases to bloody diarrhea in severely affected pets. Diagnosis is made from a fresh stool sample. Treatment varies greatly. Animals showing no signs of illness are often not treated because a mild case is often self-limiting. Pets with diarrhea are treated at home with an oral medication. Severely affected pets may need hospitalization. Prevention involves disposal of all stools and cleaning the pet’s living area. Human transmission is uncommon but can occur.