Tag Archives: vets

Stay up to date on canine influenza and heartworm protection

Does anyone really enjoy being administered a shot at the doctor’s office? While we might dread heading in for our yearly flu shot each year, certainly one prick must be better than catching this year’s version of the flu.

For your canine companion, that time of year is here for them. It is an interesting development for pet medicine, as dogs in the United States historically were not threatened by canine flu — not until it found its way to the Midwest in 2015.

What is Canine Influenza Virus?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in the dog world, strains of canine influenza — or CIV — have been limited to international pups — dogs in Asian countries, particularly Thailand, South Korea and China. CIV is thought to have developed directly out of avian and equine influenzas, strains H3N2 and H3N8, respectively.

In 2015, we started seeing the H3N2 variety crop up in parts of the Midwest, clustered in the Chicago area. The AVMA has determined that in the case of H3N8, the entire genome of the equine influenza strain evolved specifically for canine hosts, making it a particularly interesting virus from a medical standpoint.

The first U.S. detection of CIV H3N8 came in 2004, when it was found in racing greyhounds in Florida and nearby states. It has spread to more than 40 states.

The most prevalent strain in the Midwest, seen first in the Chicago area last year, is H3N2, a mutation of avian influenza.

How can we prevent CIV?

Just as our flu is not fatal to the majority of our young and healthy population, canine influenza will likely not threaten Fluffy’s life. But it might make Fluffy very uncomfortable.

According to Dr. James Frank, DVM at Lakeside Animal Hospital, “(Canine influenza) seems to present as a severe respiratory infection with dogs — coughing, running fevers, not eating or drinking and acting lethargic.” Many veterinarians are offering vaccinations for both strains.

So what can you do to keep Fluffy healthy?

Knowing the risk factors is one of the first steps to determining if a dog might be susceptible to CIV.

“If you have a high-risk dog, if you go to dog parks, groomers or if you go to doggie day care, you have better chances of picking it up,” Frank says. “What people should be aware of and weigh ahead of time is that should they pursue the vaccine, they don’t get protection until after they’ve received the second of two shots, which are spaced about a month apart.”

Once the initial influenza vaccinations are done, the immunization becomes a once yearly shot.

So far for 2016, cases of H3N2 are down significantly in our area compared to the level of cases seen in Chicago last year. This could be for a variety of reasons, including preventative vaccination by pet owners last year.

Heartworm season

While you’re at the vet looking into the CIV vaccination, remember it’s the time of year for dog owners to be diligent about heartworm testing and prevention.

Heartworms begin in a larvae stage, when they’re initially transmitted to a dog from a mosquito bite. As the adult worms form, they find their way to and set up shop in the dog’s lung and heart blood vessels, causing permanent damage and enormous discomfort. Affected dogs will tire easily, cough and show other signs of distress.

The two pieces of good news here: it is generally agreed that the heartworm risk season does not last all year and preventing the disease is as easy as remembering to pill your pup once per month. With heartworm, it is always better to be proactive with prevention than to try to treat the disease once it has taken hold.

Heartworm season generally lasts from March/April through November, which is the active and breeding season for mosquitoes. During this time, it is important for dogs to be on a monthly heartworm preventative.

Who is at risk?

Remember, both indoor and outdoor dogs should be tested and put on preventative medication, as even a dog who only goes outdoors occasionally is still considered at risk for the disease. Since mosquitoes do not limit themselves to the outdoors — they can and will find a way into homes — heartworm prevention is an important part of every dog’s yearly health profile.

How do monthly heartworm preventatives keep my dog safe?

You might not know that heartworm prevention works differently from a vaccination. When you give Fluffy his heartworm medication, it actually works to help him clear out any parasites that may have snuck into his system during the prior month. Stopping the heartworm larvae from maturing into adult heartworms is essential to keep heartworm disease out of your pup’s system.

“While canine influenza isn’t a deadly disease, heartworm is both deadly and sneaky. Remembering to give the medication is key,” says Frank. “Everyone has their own system at home to keep themselves on track. It is a very good drug when given correctly.”

What can I do?

Staying up to date on all of Fluffy’s vaccinations and check-ups will greatly reduce your chances of contracting anything this year. Your local veterinarians can answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Also, look for brochures and information available at clinics and online for further reading.

Pets can donate blood too

Today’s pets benefit from an array of medical technologies developed for humans. But not many pet owners realize a relatively old standby — blood transfusion — is commonly used in veterinary settings.

There are many scenarios in which veterinarians use transfusions to save lives.

Patients who have experienced trauma resulting in life-threatening blood loss are the most frequent recipients. But transfusions also help pets with cancers that destroy blood cells and to prolong the lives of pets with kidney diseases. Many cases of poisoning, which sometimes kill by interfering with an animal’s blood-clotting ability, can be dealt with by blood transfusions.

In order to meet the veterinary need for blood, it’s necessary for pets to donate blood. Some veterinary clinics have their own blood donation program, allowing you and your cat or dog to help save the lives of others.

Dr. Carrie Stefaniak at Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists, in Milwaukee, is in charge of her clinic’s donation program. She says that finding donors can be tricky.

“It is challenging due to lack of awareness of donor programs and sometimes (due to the required) time commitment,” she says. “While we keep a supply of blood products on hand, on occasion a fresh whole blood donation may be needed at a moment’s notice and that need could arise on weekends, holidays or in the middle of the night.” 

Ideal donors have an even temperament, display a relatively high level of comfort in a veterinary setting and meet specific weight and health criteria, which are assessed as part of the extensive screening process. 

Once it is determined the pet will make a successful donor, some training is necessary. For dogs and cats to donate successfully, they will have to learn to experience the donation process as a positive activity. Heather Clingan, a certified veterinary technician at Lakeshore, works closely with Stefaniak in the clinic’s donation program. She says the process of drawing blood starts with the proper positioning.

“Dogs usually lie on their side during the donation,” she says. “And cats often sit in a sternal position, lying on their chest, not their side.”

The process lasts 10 to 15 minutes. Once completed, many treats and plenty of attention are given to the pets to ensure they associate the experience with something positive.

Clinics offer benefits in exchange for donations, including discounts and special services. Lakeshore’s donors receive a physical examination with each donation and an annual evaluation of the donor’s blood work. The clinic also offers reward credits.

“I know that the blood Booker donates helps saves lives in emergency situations,” says Laurie Verrier, whose dog Booker is a regular donor at Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals in Milwaukee. That’s the most rewarding aspect of enrolling your pet in a blood donation program, she says — the knowledge of providing a valuable service to your veterinary community by helping to save lives and by contributing to veterinary research and progress. (Editor’s note: Laurie Verrier is an account executive with Wisconsin Gazette.)

As the field of veterinary medicine continues to grow and specialty services become more common, the need for blood donor programs will continue to grow stronger, Stefaniak says. And she predicts pet owners will rise to the need.

“More and more pets are seen as family members and people are more personally and emotionally invested in their care,” she explains. “Pets offer so much to enrich our lives — companionship, affection, loyalty and daily laughs. In return, we are fortunate to possess the medical advancements to make their lives as happy and as comfortable as possible.”

You can learn about the blood donation programs in your area by asking your veterinarian, who will be glad to help connect you with the closest facility. Before you know it you and your furry companion could be saving the lives of other pets in your community.

What’s your pet’s type?

Just like humans, dogs and cats have blood types. It’s helpful to know your pet’s blood type in case of an emergency.


Feline blood types fall into three groups: A, B and AB. Since about 90 percent of domestic cats have type A blood, cats are relatively easy to match. Type B is usually found in more exotic purebreds. Just as with humans, AB is the rarest type.

Cats don’t have one blood type that can be used as a universal donor.


Canine blood types are more complicated that a feline’s. There are more than 13 canine blood types, but the vast majority fall into eight categories that are coded according to “DEA,” an acronym for Dog Erythrocyte Antigen.

Those types are:
DEA 1.1
DEA 1.2

DEA 4 and DEA 6 appear on the blood cells of 98 percent of dogs, making canines of this blood type the primary donors. Dogs that are DEA 1.1 positive are universal recipients and DEA 1.1 negative pooches (a category that includes 60 percent of greyhounds) are universal donors. But that universality comes with a caution: Blood from DEA 1.1 positive dogs should never be transfused into DEA 1.1 negative dogs.

Source: Compiled from Internet sources.

7 half-pound mutts become first test-tube puppies

A team of veterinarians, scientists and lab workers gathered around a surrogate hound and watched her give birth to seven half-pound puppies, the first dogs ever conceived in a test tube.

“We each took a puppy and rubbed it with a little towel and when it started to squiggle and cry, we knew we had success,” said Dr. Alexander Travis, who runs the lab at the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York.

“Their eyes were closed. They were just adorable, cute, with smooshed-in faces. We checked them to make sure they looked normal and were all breathing,” he said.

The puppies born July 10 are a mix of beagle, Labrador and cocker spaniel and are now healthy 5-month-olds, Travis said. All but one female were adopted. She’s being kept by the lab to have her own litter. 

The lab kept track of the puppies by painting their nails with different color polish. Travis adopted two, still known by their nail polish names, Red and Green.

In vitro fertilization, the process of fertilizing an egg with sperm outside the body, is widely used to assist human reproduction these days. The first human birth from IVF took place in 1978. 

But IVF efforts with dogs repeatedly failed until now, according to Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, a reproductive physiologist for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, which works with Cornell. 

“The biology of the dog is really, really different than humans,” Comizzoli said. Dog pregnancies last only two months and females go into heat just once or twice a year, releasing immature eggs instead of mature eggs needed for IVF. 

An earlier experiment at Cornell helped pave the way. In 2013 at Cornell, Klondike became the first puppy born from a frozen embryo. Klondike’s beagle mother was fertilized using artificial insemination. Her embryos were collected, frozen and implanted in Klondike’s surrogate mother. 

Comizzoli described the birth of the seven puppies “as a huge breakthrough.”

A paper describing the Cornell litter as “the first live births from in vitro fertilized embryos in the dog” appeared Tuesday in the PLOS ONE journal. The lead author, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute doctoral fellow Jennifer Nagashima, said IVF technology in dogs could prove useful in everything from conserving endangered species to removing “deleterious traits from breeds,” with research potentially applicable to “models for human disease” as well.

Cats speak with meows, blinks, tails, whiskers

When it comes to cats, those meows mean … well, a lot of things.

With each purr, yowl or even blink, felines are saying, “Hello,” “Let’s snuggle” or “Beat it, Dad.”

For the increasing number of pet owners who want to connect with their often-aloof fur babies, experts say there’s something to gain from those attempts at communication.

Cats are independent, and so they are easily misunderstood, said Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA and author of the new National Geographic book “How to Speak Cat.”

He aims to unravel the mystery by helping people discern what cats are trying to convey.

Crafty kitties can make 16 meow sounds and usually only unleash them when people are around, he said.

Meows can be their way of saying feed me, pet me or let me out, and hardly ever get exchanged between cats.

That’s because cats learn they can get something desirable from people if they meow, said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She wrote the 2003 textbook “Feline Behavior.”

The meaning of a scratch or a hiss is pretty clear, but cats can talk in more subtle ways — with their eyes and tails.

A slow blink from a feline, for example, is like a wink between friends, Weitzman said.

“Blinking is like a kitty kiss,” he said.

And extending their tails straight up equates to a human handshake, he said. A cat perks up that appendage as it approaches to show it’s happy to see you.

Susan McMinn, 55, of Tryon, North Carolina, was eager to try the slow-blinking exercise with her Siamese cat, Jade, after reading the book.

“I sat and blinked slowly at my cat and she blinked right back. I know she loves me, of course, but now I feel I understand her communication even more,” McMinn said.

McMinn has owned Jade for 10 years and has had six cats over her lifetime, but she says it’s clear she still has a lot to learn.

“And I thought I was an expert!” she said.

Even ear and whisker movements signify something worth listening to. If a cat’s ears are flat, don’t get close because it’s scared or facing a fight, Weitzman said.

A kitty is happy, calm or friendly when its whiskers are naturally out to the side. Twice as thick as a human hair and rooted three times as deep, the whiskers guide them, help them with prey and show how they are feeling.

Learning to communicate with cats becomes even important for those who adopt a pet based only on the color or breed they want versus a connection with the animal.

At Happy Cats Sanctuary in Medford, New York, a potential owner might ask for a “white cat with fluffy fur,” said Melissa Cox, director of communications and development.

She tells them not to go by looks alone because the true indicator of compatibility is spending time with a cat and getting to know it.

For McMinn, she says she isn’t done with the book and plans to use some of its training tips.

But now she knows “what to look for in her (cat’s) tail and ear movement, whisker positions and in her eyes.”