Tag Archives: Ocean County Vet

Tick-Borne Disease in Dogs ( Dr. Danowitz)

In our area of New  Jersey ticks are a concern, both for humans as well as animals.  Of the many diseases that ticks carry, several are transmissible to both species.  Although very small and seemingly fragile, ticks are actually tremendously hardy parasites, capable of surviving through a wide range of climate conditions.  This is one of the reasons that OCVH, FVH & NPVH advocate treating our pets with a flea/tick preventative all year round in our area.

To learn about the tick life cycle, please click here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g_lt0FcQag

Of all the diseases that ticks can transmit to dogs, four are most prevalent:  Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. We have seen cases of all 4 of these conditions at OCVH and our family of practices over the past year, so they are present in our area!

 

LYME DISEASE

Lyme Disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world.  It is caused by microscopic bacteria called spirochetes, which ticks ingest when feeding on wildlife or other dogs that are infected with the spirochete. The tick then spreads the infection to another animal when it bites them looking for its next blood meal. The species of tick that transmits Lyme Disease is Ixodes Scapularis (Deer Tick).

 

Despite all the research into Lyme Disease in both human and veterinary medicine, there are many aspects of the disease that still remain a mystery.  Dogs that are exposed to Lyme Disease can exhibit a variety of clinical signs, ranging from no signs at all to an irreparable kidney failure and death. The most common clinical signs are joint inflammation leading to lameness, fever, and lethargy or depression.  Many dogs test positive for Lyme Disease and never develop clinical signs of the disease. Kidney disease secondary to Lyme Disease seems to be more prevalent in Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Burmese Mountain Dogs.

How is it diagnosed?  There are several blood tests that can detect Lyme Disease.  Our heartworm test, called an Accuplex, also screens for exposure to Lyme Disease as well as 2 other tick-borne diseases.  Often if your dog is diagnosed with Lyme Disease the veterinarian may recommend a urine sample to make sure the kidneys are not affected, as well as, other more specific blood tests.  Test results, in combination with any clinical signs that the dog has, is considered before initiating treatment.  The treatment for Lyme Disease is a long course of an antibiotic, typically either doxycycline or amoxicillin.

In some patients it is impossible eradicate the organism from the body no matter what antibiotic is used. Therefore, even with appropriate treatment, the signs of disease may flare-up again in the future.

 

EHRLICHIOSIS

Ehrlichiosis is another bacterial organism transmitted to dogs through a tick bite.  The Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus), the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma) and the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor) have all been linked to the transmission of this disease.

Clinical signs associated with Ehrlichiosis vary greatly, but can include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, enlarged lymph nodes, eye and nasal discharge, lethargy, difficulty breathing and swollen limbs.  The disease can progress to the nervous system, causing muscle twitching and other neurologic problems. Long term, blood platelet levels (cells that assist with clotting) may drop to dangerously low level and become life-threatening without treatment. Diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis can be made with the Accuplex blood test, as well as other blood tests available at our laboratory.  Doxycyline for at least 4 weeks is the treatment of choice for this serious disease.

 

ANAPLASMOSIS

Anasplamosis is another type of bacterial disease transmitted by ticks, including both the Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus) and the Deer Tick (Ixodes).  In general, Anaplasmosis causes milder clinical signs when compared to Lyme Disease or Ehrlichiosis.  Clinical signs can include: fever, depression, weakness, lameness, reluctance to move, loss of appetite, enlarged lymph nodes and enlarged spleen. Anaplasmosis can also lead to low platelet numbers, much like Ehrlichiosis.  Diagnosis can be made with the Accuplex blood test. The treatment of choice for animals showing clinical disease is doxycycline, although often this disease is self-limiting and some animals never progress to the clinical state of needing treatment.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is a potentially fatal disease of both dogs and humans due to an intracellular bacterium called Rickettsia. It is transmitted by the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor), the Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus) and the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma).  In humans, RMSF is often associated with a rash from the tick bite; however, in dogs a rash is much less common.  Clinical signs of infected dogs include: fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, reluctance to move, stiffness or swelling of joints, enlarged lymph nodes and neurological signs.  Destruction of platelets can lead to bleeding and severe inflammations of blood vessels.  In some dogs the disease is self-limiting, while in others it can become a fatal condition. Diagnosis of RMSF is through a special blood test. The treatment of choice once again for this disease is doxycycline.

 

PROTECTION FROM TICKS AND THEIR DISEASES

So how can we protect our furry companions from these diseases?  There are 2 main ways: vaccination and topical preventative.  The only tick-borne disease that we have a vaccination for is Lyme Disease. The Lyme vaccine that is available, although not 100% effective in preventing the disease in all dogs does dramatically reduce the chances of infection and can minimize the seriousness of Lyme Disease in a large majority of the pets that receive the vaccine before they are bitten by ticks carrying the Lyme bacteria.

We recommend the Lyme vaccination for all dogs in our area.

 

 

Topical tick preventative has become a cornerstone in our efforts to prevent the spread of

these four diseases.  Often these products are also designed to kill and / or prevent flea infestations as well.  Although there are several products on the market that kill ticks, the product preferred by the veterinarians at OCVH, FVH & NPVH for dogs is Vectra 3D.

Vectra 3D, in addition to killing fleas and ticks, has the extra bonus of repelling the ticks, making it less likely that they even attach to the dog.  Please see the video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmhth6fKtGQ

Protect your canine companion from these diseases by having them vaccinated annually against Lyme Disease and protecting them year-round from tick and flea infestations by using Vectra 3D.

 

William Danowitz DVM

But Fifi, It’s Cold Outside! (Dr. Weiner)

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            How about this weather folks?  The polar vortex brings back memories of the cold, dark winters of my childhood in northern New England.   The below freezing days and snowy nights remind me of school ski trips, epic snowball battles and warming up with some hot cocoa by the fireplace.   As fun as reminiscing is, I do need to take extra time and care this time of year to keep my loved ones and myself safe.  My pets are an important part of my family and they require special consideration.  Since I’m sure you feel the same way, I will share some important winter safety tips.

            Alas, gentle readers, this arctic weather has really taken a toll on my morning snooze button time.  This time of the year my quick exit strategies to get my son to daycare and myself to OCVH each morning needing major adjustments.  We both have to perform what seems like an epic search for boots, coats, gloves, ice crampons (of course I jest) and other essential winter gear before heading out to the car.  Wouldn’t life be easier if we all had natural winter gear – like a nice fur coat perhaps?  This cold weather should not be any problem for our cats and dogs right?  For some breeds this is true, but most of our furry companions are used to living inside.   Since most dogs and cat spend all year in our warm houses, they often do not develop a full winter coat needed to sufficiently protect them for long periods outside in the extreme weather.  Also, remember that the coat is of limited benefit if it gets wet.   Do not count on your pet’s coat to completely protect him or her from the terrible weather we have been having lately.  Sure those sweaters and booties may look silly, but some breeds need help staying warm.  I would not let my son go outside without a coat and you should not let your Doberman puppy or Chihuahua go out unprotected either.  Also, use common sense about how long your pet is allowed outside. Watch for signs that Fido really needs to come back in, such as shivering, holding up paws, reluctance to move, whining, or scraping at the door.

           Although your dog would never admit it, he or she may be hiding a health condition that could put them at greater risk in the cold weather.  Problems like kidney disease, diabetes or heart disease can compromise the body’s ability to deliver the proper amount of blood to the vital organs in times of stress.  Without proper blood supply these pets have a very hard time keeping themselves warm which puts them at higher risk for having rapid worsening of their disease or developing secondary diseases.  Additionally, older pets with arthritis are sure to have a harder time when the temperatures drop.  Activities like climbing the stairs or walking down the block can be very difficult when it is cold and icy outside.   Monitor your furred senior citizens closely and be aware that there are medical measures that we can take to keep your pet comfortable this winter.   Anti-inflammatory medications, targeted laser therapy with a K-laser and intelligent exercise restriction are all proven methods to keep your older dog or cat enjoying his or her days, even when it cold and nasty outside.

          When bringing your pet outside in the cold, be sure to watch for shivering, whining, decreased response to your voice or command and unwillingness to move.  All of these can be warning signs for hypothermia.  If noted, your pet should be brought to a warm place immediately.   Pets with thin fur coats or minimal coverage of high-risk areas, like the tail or ears, need to be monitored very closely.  Be sure to use common sense and remember that there truly is some weather that is not fit for man NOR beast.

          We have many things that allow us to be more productive and comfortable, even in the worst winter weather.  Unfortunately, we need to be cognizant that some of these comforts can also be health risks to our pets.  Antifreeze is very sweet and may seem like a tempting treat to your furry pal.  However, it is very toxic and the ingestion of even a small amount can be fatal.  While there is an antidote, treatment must be started very quickly after exposure to be effective.  Please make sure any antifreeze is stored safely away from your little ones (furry or otherwise) and that you check your vehicles regularly for leaks.  In addition, certain types of deicers can be toxic or irritating to your pets’ paws.  I recommend using pet safe products only and wiping your dog’s feet off after walking outside during the winter months.  Also, if you have an open fireplace or use candles, be sure that your pets are not left by unattended when they are lit.   No one thinks that their dog would allow their tail to catch on fire or that their cat would really knock over a candle, but it definitely does happen.   Space heaters should be used with extreme caution due to the fire hazard and carbon monoxide risks.

            I have one final animal care tip during these chilly times.   Please be sure to bang on your hood before starting your car engine in the morning.  When it is this cold, a nice warm motor compartment may be a tempting night time shelter for neighborhood cats.  It is better to scare them away than to have them be badly injured by the moving parts.

           Stay warm and safe everyone.  Let’s all think warm thoughts and hope Punxsutawney Phil wasn’t totally right!

Zach Weiner DVM

Keep your Feline on the Mainline to Health! (by Dr. Iaquinto)

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As humans, it is recommended to see your family physician once a year for your annual check up. Now imagine only seeing your doctor every 4-7 years! Do you think some medical problems would have easily been prevented or managed better with more frequent visits? That’s the concern with our feline family members. Since cats age more rapidly than people and are very good at hiding ailments, it is recommended they have twice yearly visits.

 

Twice yearly visits to OCVH, FVH or NPVH allow our veterinarians to examine your cat’s mouth and thoroughly examine her teeth. By three years old, 85% of cats have some form of dental disease. We can give you a detailed assessment of her dental health and give you recommendations on how to maintain it. We will listen to her heart and lungs. We will identify any murmurs (abnormal blood flow) or arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). This is very important as cats may not show any signs of heart disease until it is very advanced and then are at risk of sudden death. We will palpate her abdomen to assess organ size and any pain.  Lower urinary tract (bladder) disease is more prevalent in cats age 1 through 10, whereas upper urinary tract (kidney) disease is more prevalent in cats over 8 years old. We will check her weight and address any signs of obesity or weight loss. Overweight cats are more prone to diseases such as arthritis, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, constipation, and more. Weight loss may indicate metabolic disease, over active thyroid disease, or cancer. We will also assess her body condition, skin, coat, eyes, ears, lungs and neurologic health. Surprisingly 90% of cats over age 12 have some degree of arthritis! Most owners simply chalk it up to “slowing down” or “getting older” when actually these cats are experiencing pain. Many conditions are treatable with timely diagnosis and medical management.

During the physical examination the doctor will make recommendations for vaccines based on your cat’s lifestyle. The doctor may make recommendations for blood tests in senior cats or those that show changes from their previous visit. These tests allow us to address problems before they become too advanced or reduce your cat’s quality of life.  It gives us a chance to be proactive in preventing the complications frequently associated with medical problems. By investing twice yearly in exams, you may dramatically extend your cat’s lifespan and comfort.

Twice yearly visits also provide you with the opportunity to discuss any concerns you have with the doctor. It gives you a chance to share information with us as it pertains to your cat’s health and behavior. We value your insight! You are our eyes and ears in the home setting. By incorporating your observations with our medical findings and expertise we can help your cat live a longer and healthier life.

 

Erika Iaquinto DVM

 

 

An Alternative Approach to Vaccinations (By Dr. Lorri Mitchell)

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Vaccination is a controversial subject in both the human and animal world. The dangers of an unprotected individual succumbing to disease need to be balanced against the risk of infrequent side effects from an approved vaccine. We have valid concerns about what vaccines should be administered and how often they should be given.

 

At Ocean County, Fischer and New Prospect Veterinary Hospitals we strive to stay current with the ever-changing world of vaccine recommendations for your pet. In past years, adaptation to new research and guidelines has resulted in several changes to keep our patients safe and protected. These include:
-moving to a three year interval for adult dogs getting the Distemper combination vaccine as new research showed they did not always need it yearly
-similarly, adult cats also get their Distemper combination vaccine every three years now
-we now use an improved Rabies vaccine for cats that has less additives and is therefore less reactive for them

In addition to the above, we recognize that each pet is unique and evaluate them at their yearly well-visit to determine which vaccines are best recommended for them. For example, an outdoor barn cat will have different risks than a strictly indoor-only solo cat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or a toy poodle that lives alone in a city setting will have different risks than a beagle or retriever who hikes and hunts. OCVH, FVH & NPVH veterinarians want to know the lifestyle your pet leads so we can help you make the right decisions for their well care.

Some of you may be familiar with the term “vaccine titer” (pronounced “tighter”) test. These tests have been around for a while but more and more pet owners are having these tests performed instead of boosting vaccines annually. They are available for some vaccines but not all. Most commonly, titers are run for dog Distemper, Parvovirus and Adenovirus (Infectious Canine Hepatitis).

What is a titer test?

A titer test is a simple blood test that allows us to measure how much antibody (a protein produced by the body in response to a foreign material, either natural disease or a vaccine) is in the animal’s bloodstream. From research we know what levels of antibodies are needed for protection. Animals with protective levels in the bloodstream will be able to successfully fight off the disease without the need for revaccination that year. This gives us an alternative to repeatedly vaccinating pets when they actually do not need it.  Research has shown that many adult dogs can maintain protective antibody titers to Distemper, Parvovirus and Adenovirus for more than four years and in some dogs even longer. The problem is we don’t know which dogs can do that and which dogs need more frequent boosters.

We are excited that we are now able to offer this alternative to the Distemper/Parvovirus/Adenovirus vaccine for your dog at our facility. We will be running the tests weekly and will call you with results. If your pet has a positive titer then there is no need to give the vaccine. If your pet has a negative titer then we will recommend a vaccine booster.

For more information on the test go to www.vaccicheck.com.

Other uses for the Vaccicheck test would be to test your puppy two weeks after they complete the puppy series to determine whether they have mounted adequate immunity or whether they need an additional booster. Or if you adopt a dog and are unsure if it had received the Distemper vaccine you could titer test them to see if one is needed.

Titer tests are not available for Bordetella, Leptospirosis or Lyme vaccines. These diseases are not viral and so create a different immune reaction. These vaccines continue to be recommended yearly for protection, if your pet’s lifestyle warrants it.  Rabies vaccine titers are available at outside labs but in NJ dogs are still required to have the vaccine by law. Even if they have a positive titer to the Rabies vaccine, it will not be recognized as equivalent to the proof of current vaccine by the animal control authorities.

What about cats? The same company that offers the titer test for dogs that we use will be coming out with a similar one for cats shortly. We hope to be able to offer it for your feline companion soon.

The lifestyle of each pet is different and all of our doctors are prepared to tailor your pet’s care to their individual needs for maximum protection and comfort.

 

Lorri Mitchell DVM

You CAN manage arthritis in your pet! (By Dr. Jenna Koenigstein)

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Nikki’s story

This lovely lady is Nikki a patient at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital (OCVH) . She is a very happy 11 month old lab who loves to eat and swim but is otherwise a bit lazy.  One day a few months ago, she was outside playing with her “sister” and suddenly started limping badly on her right front leg.  X-rays of her legs showed that she had an inherited condition called Elbow Dysplasia in both of her elbows, and sadly was already developing arthritis.  Although surgery removed the congenital defects in her elbows and helped her tremendously, it could not reverse or prevent the early arthritis which will continue to get worse with time.

Stories like this are common, but not what most people think of when they think of arthritis.  The sad truth is that many young dogs are at risk for developing arthritis, whether from developmental conditions like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia or injuries like torn ligaments (ACLs) in the stifles (knees).  For pets that are in pain and having difficulty getting around, medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, for example, Rimadyl) are needed to make them feel better.  Fortunately, for long-term management of arthritis, there are many other things that can be done to improve the overall comfort and slow the progression of arthritis in both young and old dogs, particularly when the arthritis is diagnosed in its early stages.  Unfortunately, many times it is not addressed until the arthritis has reached the point where the pet is consistently limping.  The true goal of arthritis management should be focused on preventing pain and slowing progression of the process.  Here are some ways to achieve this goal.

Weight management

The single most important thing you can do as a pet parent with an animal with arthritis is keep their weight under control.

Extra pounds will not only make it even more difficult for dogs to get up and down but can also speed up the progression of arthritis.  Decreasing caloric intake, whether by decreasing the quantity fed or by switching to a diet food (either lower calorie or prescription) and increasing exercise will help you to see results at home.  Often the amount that your pet needs to eat to meet their metabolic needs is far less than you think they should be eating.  The feeding recommendations on the bags of food are just generalizations and do not take into account individual variation in metabolism, and may be far too much for your individual pet, especially if they are not very active. What is your pet’s body condition? See the chart below. Ask your veterinarian for special diets that can help your pet lose weight more easily.

Adequan

Adequan in a unique injectable medication the helps prevent the cartilage in joints from wearing away.  The goal of this treatment is to keep the cartilage healthy and intact so that the bones in the joint cannot rub on each other.  It is initially given twice a week for 4 weeks and then as needed.  Owners can be taught to give the injections at home (very easy!).  Most owners have noticed a drastic improvement in their pet’s mobility after starting Adequan and many have been able to decrease or altogether stop giving oral pain medications.

Oral Supplements

There are numerous oral supplements on the market that can help to improve mobility.  Glucosamine and chondroitin are the most popular supplements on the pharmacy shelves and many owners have noted improvement in their pet’s comfort while on these.  There are many companies making these supplements, which can be purchased both at veterinary hospitals and over the counter (OTC).  Caution must be exercised with OTC products as they frequently do not have the levels of glucosamine and chondroitin that are claimed on the label, and some contain potentially harmful components such as salicylic acid (metabolite of aspirin) which increases the risk of stomach ulceration. We recommend using Cosequin or Dasuquin.

Another supplement recommended in animals with arthritis is Duralactin.  This contains Microlactin, a dried milk protein from hyper-immunized cows that works at a cellular level to reduce inflammation and prevent subsequent tissue damage.   It can be used in conjunction with a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement such as Dasuquin to reduce inflammation and improve overall mobility.

Rehab/exercise

Proper exercise is essential for the arthritic pet, as it is crucial to maintain as much muscle mass as possible to support the abnormal joint.  Massage and gentle flexion/extension exercises may also help.   In later stages of arthritis, facilities specializing in canine rehabilitation and physical therapy can develop an exercise plan for your canine companion.

 Nikki walking on the underwater treadmill.

 

Physical Analgesia

Laser therapy utilizes the benefits of photobiomodulation to promote tissue healing and reduce inflammation.  We have had a lot of success at OCVH with the K-Laser not only in managing arthritis, but also with infected wounds, soft tissue injuries, and post-operative healing.

Several other methods of promoting pain relief have been used in management of arthritis in pets, including acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS), shock wave therapy, and many others.  Ask your veterinarian if you are interested in pursuing these alternative methods of reducing inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.

When pets with evidence of early arthritis are managed with the long-term goal of slowing down progression of the disease rather than simply immediate pain relief, we have the chance of giving them a better quality of life for much longer.  As for Nikki, since her surgery she has been on a diet (3.6 pounds down so far!), and has  started both Adequan and K-Laser therapy in addition to a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement (Dasuquin).  Despite being in the early stages of arthritis, taking these steps now should significantly slow down the progression of the disease and keep her happy and comfortable for a long time to come.

 

 

OCVH Veterinarian Dr. Pearlman discusses the risks of LEPTOSPIROSIS

 

Ocean County Veterinary Hospital veterinarians want to know… Do your dogs go outside? If they do they may be at risk for Leptospirosis. This disease is caused by one of the many strains of the Leptospira bacteria. Wild animals that walk through your yard, day or night, can leave the bacteria behind wherever they urinate. Remember, there is not a yard or park in New Jersey that does not have a squirrel or mouse run through it! Dogs most often become infected with Leptospirosis through contact with the bacteria that live and multiply in contaminated puddles or moist areas. Any dog that goes outside is at risk. Even when I walk my own dogs on a leash they sometimes reach down before I can stop them from investigating a puddle. We used to think that only dogs that swam in lakes or rivers, such as hunting dogs, were at risk. The fact is that many dogs diagnosed with Leptospirosis are medium to small dogs that are mostly indoors. People are at risk as well because Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease which means it can spread from animals to people.

The signs of Leptospirosis infection in dogs may vary. Some dogs do not show any signs of illness but may continue to shed the bacteria in their urine. Some develop a transient illness but recover, while many others become very sick and can even die. The signs can be nonspecific such as: lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea and yellowing or bruising of the skin. There are different strains of the Leptospira bacteria and different strains target different organs. Kidney and liver failure may occur. The treatment will vary depending on the extent of the illness. Some dogs are treated with oral antibiotics alone, while others need to be hospitalized for intensive care.

If your veterinarian suspects Leptospirosis, diagnostics must be run to confirm infection. New tests, such as the Leptospirosis PCR for blood or urine, allow us to detect active infections in a shorter period of time (a few days). Chronic infections may require a blood antibody titer to be run initially and again 4 to 6 weeks later. Other tests may be recommended depending on severity of the disease and the condition of the patient.

The good news is that there is a vaccination that can help prevent Leptospirosis. We recommend it for all dogs living in New Jersey. Discuss your dog’s risk of exposure and the vaccination with your veterinarian. All of my dogs are vaccinated for Leptospirosis every year. Even though they are not outside often, I want them to be protected. Remember “Lepto” and remember there is a way to prevent this deadly disease.

 

 

 Laurie Pearlman DVM