“Kissing Bugs” and Chagas Disease in Dogs

Kissing BugsOver the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion on the internet about American Trypanosomiasis Parasitic Infection that is brought on by the bite of a parasitic insect known as the “Kissing Bug.” While this disease is far more common in areas like South American, there have been cases of infection reported recently in roughly all of the states in the southern region of the United States. While this is getting widespread attention, it is worth noting that this parasitic infection has actually only been noticed in about 25 human cases since the fifties, and there is speculation that all of those cases were actually a result of travel outside of the US. The bites from the “kissing bug” draw blood and also transfer the parasites into the hosts bloodstream, causing a variety of problems including potential death. While this is certainly news, far less discussion is happening regarding that this type of infection is far more common in dogs in the US. The condition is called Chagas disease, and it is an illness caused by the zoonotic protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, contracted through a variety of manners including a blood transfusion. Once the parasite multiplies and eventually ruptures out into the blood circulation, it spreads to various organs including the brain and heart. Chagas disease is commonly associated with sudden inflammation of the heart muscle. Chagas disease is typically in in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia, California, New Mexico, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland. Recently there have been cases reported in nearly every state in the southern half of the US. If you find a suspected kissing bug in your home or around your dog’s area, it is important not to kill the insect by squishing it. Instead, trap it in a container while being careful not to be bitten by it, as it is very important for it to be accurately identified by a veterinarian in order to make an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms of Chagas In Dogs

There are two forms of Chagas disease in dogs: acute and chronic. One of the main problems with detection and treatment is a long asymptomatic period (where no symptoms develop), which can last years in some cases. There is a progressive multiplication of the parasite, eventually leading to the degeneration and inflammation of the heart. This heart issue can eventually cause heart failure and death.

Acute Chagas (dogs younger than 2 most typically)
Diarrhea
Depression
Lethargy
Exercise intolerance
Difficulty walking
Seizures
Lymph nodes swelling
Increased heart rate
Congestive heart failure

Chronic Chagas (older dogs typically)
Weakness
Fainting
Exercise intolerance
Increased heart rate

Causes

Chagas may occur when an insect, such as a kissing bug (Triatominae), bites the dog on the skin or lips and leaves infected feces in the wound. It can also occur when a dog eats feces from an infected animal like an opossum, raccoon, and armadillo.

Diagnosis

If you notice symptoms of any kind, immediately visit a veterinarian and ask for an examination, as well as an order of a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, serology and an electrolyte panel — essentially the typical procedure for a suspected parasitic infections.

X-Rays can potentially show Chagas issues, and an echocardiogram may show chamber or wall abnormalities. These types of abnormalities are often seen in sudden or chronic forms of the disease.

Treatment

Typically, supportive treatment of heart complications (e.g., heart arrythmias) is the main way to treat Chagas, as there is no known cure. Although several drugs have shown some promise, there is no valid associated treatment that reverses the symptoms.

Living and Management

Unfortunately the veterinarian may suggest euthanization as a means of preventing suffering due to the grave prognosis associated with chronic Chagas. Dogs diagnosed with acute Chagas are generally listed as “guarded” meaning that there is a poor prognosis and a general expectation of failure over time.

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We Know Your Breed

When many people adopt their new pet, they are looking for something specific. This does not necessarily mean that they are seeking a specific breed of animal (although many people are) but instead perhaps they are seeking a type of pet, small, large, active, furry etc. When they shop for their pet or go to their local shelter to adopt, they are seeking an animal that fits into a certain type, and is probably a type of breed as a result. Even mixed-breed dogs and cats still have the genetic traits of major breeds, giving them a look, temperament, size and all of the potential health issues that accompany that breed. Pet Health Animal Hospital employs a unique method of providing care for your pet, including both ongoing care as well as preventative maintenance. These wellness programs employ standard veterinary schedules for vaccinations and checkups that are specific for your type of pet, but go further by also addressing your pet’s breed and health condition in order to also put into place preventative steps to stop the spread of common ailments in your type of pet. These “breed specific” types of procedures come from years of experience and knowledge of working with specific breeds, as well as knowing what to look for. Only Pet Health Hospital uses this unique system of wellness care, as it was developed and produced by the veterinarians at our clinic.

At Pet Health Hospital, we know your breed of pet. We have decades of experience working with animals of all different types, and have worked extensively with all breeds of cats and dogs. Your particular pet has unique features and needs with regards to medical care, and we have seen them all before. Only the most experienced veterinarians can claim this level of understanding of your particular pet, and we have the experience you have been seeking. There are unique elements that make pitbulls different than pugs, and only someone who has worked with both those breeds for many years is going to know exactly what to look for, and what may be the issues to try and prevent. As an example, pugs and German shepherds are both prone to having hip problems, but they are very different breeds of dog. If your pug starts to have difficulty walking on their hind legs, there may be a hip issue that is common in their breed that we can treat. Only the experience of working with that particular breed is going to give you the best treatment plan for your pet.

Our breed specific care is based upon our ongoing idea that preventing illnesses and maladies that are common in animals is as simple as knowing what to look for and taking steps to prevent it from happening. By understanding that some dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion than others, we can prescribe exercises that are beneficial to your dog based upon the breed, and not just based upon the fact that they are a dog. Come in to our clinic today and ask about our breed specific care.

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Potential Danger To Dogs In Peanut Butter (Xylitol)

Xylitol dogsOne of the most desirable treats for a dog is peanut butter, which makes the process of giving pills to dogs far easier because very few dogs will reject peanut butter. Many people will use a small amount of peanut butter as a treat or reward for their dog as well. But recent news stories have shed light on a potential danger to your dog’s health that is finding it’s way into some peanut butters, an ingredient known as Xylitol. Xylitol is a man-made sweetener which is being used in more and more foods as a substitute for sugar, mainly in products that are marketed as weight loss foods or low in fat foods. The desire of many companies to provide alternatives to traditional foods and drinks that contain less calories or fats have lead to an entire category of foods that have sugars being substituted with artificial sweeteners, Xylitol being the most popular. The biggest issue with this ingredient is that it is toxic for dogs to eat can can be fatal if enough is consumed. Xylitol can be found in gums, baked goods, candies and peanut butters.

This year so far, there have been more than 2,800 calls to the Pet Poison Help Line that have shown potential Xylitol poisoning as the reason for the problems that the pet is experiencing. This number is up more than 300 over 2009, which is probably due to the increasing utilization of Xylitol in human products which are designed for weight loss and sugar restricted diets. As the use of the sweetener becomes more and more popular and it makes it’s way into more foods that were traditionally fine to feed to your pets as a small treat (even though veterinarians will discourage the use of human foods as treats across the board) people are unaware that the food that once was able to be provided without any health issues is suddenly causing problems in pets due to the difference in ingredients.

The main issue with animals ingesting Xylitol is dangerously low blood sugar levels. When a dog eats anything containing Xylitol, the insulin is produced by the pancreas. The blood sugar levels will drop to dangerously low levels and you will begin seeing signs of weakness, staggering and the pet acting almost as if they were drunk. Untreated Xylitol ingestion can cause irreversible liver damage and be fatal to dogs, however if it is caught and treated early enough the damage can be reversible. Look for signs of potential Xylitol poisoning if your dog is vomiting, has diarrhea or is acting very lethargic.

The problem with Xylitol is that many people do not know it is in their food, and do not know that dogs cannot eat even a small amount of it without being poisoned. Due to the fact that foods that you traditionally gave to your pet without any reaction may have switched ingredients to provide a “healthier” alternative, you can no longer feed that food to your pet without consequences. We encourage you to read the ingredients of anything you feed to your dog even in small amounts, and never feed anything containing Xylitol to your dog under any circumstances. If you suspect your dog has eaten Xylitol, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The Pet Poison Help Line is a 24 hour service that can be reached at 855-764-7661

The Dangers Of Colder Weather To Pets In Las Vegas

With the onset of the holiday season in Las Vegas, we begin to see the colder weather that all people who have lived here long enough realize that the weather begins to change to colder temperatures around the end of October, and will get progressively colder throughout the winter. Many people who have just moved to Las Vega, or who have not yet been through a winter here might not have an accurate idea of exactly how cold it gets, and might be under the impression that it is all right to leave their pets outside now that the hot weather has passed. Nothing is further from the truth, and the cold weather in Las Vegas can have just as deadly an effect on pets as the heat. Simply put, it will go to below freezing here many nights, and sometimes without much warning. This means it is not safe to leave your cats and dogs outside in the cold without adequate shelter, food or water.

When the temperatures drop in Las Vegas, they do so quickly and many times without much warning. Animals that are left outside in the freezing temperatures have little ability to cope with the temperatures, and many times will be left not only cold but without enough water due to the fact that it freezes and is no longer drinkable by the animal. This can happen within a few hours if a dog or cat is left unattended and unsupervised, leading to potential hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration due to lack of adequate water. So many people believe that since animals have fur they will be better adapted to coping with colder temperatures, but what you have to realize is that their extremities are just as vulnerable as your own hands and feet. Combine this with the fact that most of our pets are not used to living outside and it makes the cold even more difficult for them to deal with. Frostbite can happen within minutes if the temperatures drop below freezing and your pet is exposed, so it is always suggested to bring your pet inside as soon as it gets too cold out for you to feel comfortable outside yourself.

In the cases where your pet does spend extended periods of time outside, provide them with the shelter of a dog house or another structure that will allow them some shelter from the cold temperatures. If that shelter can be heated, it will help them feel comfortable and also keep their water from freezing. Something to keep in mind as well is that water which is left in metal bowls outside in cold temperatures can cause the dog or cat’s tongues to stick to the frozen metal if temperatures drop, causing injuries to the sensitive tissues. Your pet will instinctively lick the bowl and does not understand that their tongues might stick to the surfaces, which can cause severe damage when they try to pull away. Keep water in plastic bowls in cold temperatures.

The colder weather may allow your pet to be outside longer than when it was very hot outside, but as a responsible pet owner it is always best to plan on keeping your pet inside in the Las Vegas winters as much as possible. They get cold too!

Know Your Local Animal Hospitals

When it comes to the most important things that you can do for your pet, one of the most important is knowing where the closest animal hospitals and after hours emergency hospitals are located. While your veterinarian of choice is based upon how much you feel that they understand animal medicine, their reviews, the facility itself and how helpful the staff is, the times when seconds count need to be planned on based upon proximity to your home. For this reason, we always suggest making a list of the closest animal hospitals or emergency rooms that treat animals to your home. The fact of the matter is going to be that many emergencies with regards to your pets are going to happen after the business hours of your local veterinarian of choice, and in those crisis situations you are going to have to have a plan in place that takes as little time to execute as possible.

When you plan for emergencies around your home, you probably made a note of where the local hospitals and emergency rooms are located around your home, just in case a family member was to get hurt and need to be transported to the doctor quickly. Most people will suggest that you keep the address, direction to, and phone numbers of the closest hospitals to your home, posted on your refrigerator or in another convenient location. Additionally, taking a drive from our house to the local emergency room is a good idea so that every family member knows exactly how to get there in the shortest time, just in case it is necessary. This same logic applies to your pets, so on that same note you might want to put the location of the local 24 hour emergency pet hospital, or if there is no emergency pet hospital near you, put the number of who to call where emergency care can be found. Make sure that each family member knows the location of the emergency pet hospital, and how to contact them in order to let them know you are coming in case of emergency. One thing that people fail to realize when the are planning for emergencies is that in a crisis time when seconds count, you are not going to have time to think straight. It is not the time to consult Google or the phone book looking for which veterinarians may be open after hours. You need to know exactly what to do as soon as the emergency happens, which is why planning out what to do in advance is the best way to go.

Call your veterinarian of choice and ask them what emergency animal hospital they suggest, and map it out to see if it is closest to our home or if there is another facility that offers the same kind of care which is closer. Contact that emergency room and ask about any hours that they might not be open, or what you should do if there is a pet emergency in your home. Put your information on file if you can, just so you can save time in a crisis. Visit the animal hospital and see how long it takes to get there and if they appear to have the ability to handle all critical cases. Ask about their prices, and if there is anything else you should plan on bringing with you if there is an emergency. If you plan for an emergency, sometimes your planning can save your pet’s life. Hopefully it will never be necessary, but if it is you will be glad you did.