Pet Summer Hiking Series – Part Five

Heartworm…Prevening this Parasite is Powerful! 

Heartworm is here.  This disease isn’t prevalent yet, but it does exist in the Reno-Tahoe area.  It actually affects dogs and cats in every state.

2013-Heartworm-Incidence-Map

If you are not familiar with Dirofilaria immitis, Heartworm, it’s a parasite commonly found in dogs and cats. It is in fact, a worm that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes.  Adult worms that develop in the right ventricle of the heart, cause heart failure and eventually death.  Crazy thing…it can be prevented.

Microfilaria
Microfilaria

Heartworm is transmitted by a mosquito.  The larvae (microfilaria) live in the infected mosquito‘s saliva and are injected when they bite your dog or cat.  The larvae develop into adults that gather in the heart.  Once adult worms are present, without treatment prognosis is death.

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Boomer’s Heart Infected with Adult Heartworms

The best way to prevent Heartworm disease is keeping your pet on preventative year round. The mosquitoes in the Sierras can spread the disease.  They have even been found at Lake Tahoe in November. Yes November.  So, skipping winter months is no longer a viable option to fight this often fatal disease.IMG_4279

Performing a simple blood test in the hospital can check for the disease in as little as ten minutes.  Negative results mean you can start the preventative right away.  It’s as easy as giving a tasty beef chew once a month.  Positive results are a whole other story better left for another blog.  Treatment is necessary to save your pet and risks involved can be fatal as well.

As an active outdoor enthusiast, camping and hiking with my dogs is a must. My dogs are protected by Heartgard all year, since mosquitoes are unavoidable. Although there are products like K9 Advantix II that repel mosquitoes, there’s no guarantee.  And…mosquitoes not biting your dog are biting you.  Cases of Heartworm have been reported in humans as well.  West Nile Virus is another nasty disease spread by mosquitoes.

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Bogart and a few dozen skeeters.

 

Tech Tips:

  • Get your dog tested for Heartworm disease annually.
  • If, you skip or miss a dose, be sure to re-test in 6 months.
  • Keep your dog on Heartworm preventative all year.
  • Symptoms may include, but are not always seen:
    • A mild persistent cough
    • lethargy
    • exercise intolerance
    • weight-loss
    • loss of appetite

The fact is, if there’s even a chance for infection and there’s a preventative…It’s in your power to ensure you pets’ well-being.

My Pet Summer Hiking Series is coming to an end.  Don’t miss my last post about Trail Emergencies.  If you missed Parts One, Two, Three or Four check them out here!

https://aubriericketts.wordpress.com/

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Ruby and Godiva on our way to Skunk Harbor, Lake Tahoe – Nevada.

 

Pet Summer Hiking Series – Part Four

Giardia…Gross!

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Trophozoite Photo by CDC/ Janice Haney Carr

Giardia?  What the heck is that?  If you’re an outdoor enthusiast and hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, you know what Giardia is; maybe you’ve been a victim and reservoir host.  Giardia is not a bacteria, worm or virus.  This nasty, little bug is a protozoan parasite known as Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia), and is responsible for gut-wrenching (literally) abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

Not only can humans get Giardiasis, many animals including dogs, cats, sheep, birds, cattle, and beavers are affected too.  There are two forms of Giardia: the trophozoite (feeding animal) and the cyst. Generally,cysts are ingested and then activated by stomach acid to become the trophozoites that feed on mucus secreted by the small intestine causing diarrhea.

Usually, inexperienced hikers, dying of thirst are ill-prepared for the heat of the Reno-Tahoe area naively drink from lakes, creeks or rivers flowing down the mountain side. They subscribe to the myth that moving, frigid water is safe; they take a few sips to quench his or her thirst thinking it won’t cause any harm. WRONG!!

Giardia hibernates in the cyst form through the winter, waiting for the perfect conditions.  Thawing snow is provides the right vehicle for Giardia to move downstream and straight into water sources.

(Here’s Ruby’s imitation of Giardia moving in the thawing snow.)

If your dog drinks water from a dirty source in the Sierra, they are at risk of becoming infected with Giardia.  This protozoa completes its life cycle after it’s ingested and excreted in your pets’ bowel movement.  If infected, your dog or cat can carry the cysts on its fur transferring it to you just from petting them.  Occasionally it can be transmitted from their drinking water too!  I practice good hygiene, but realistically, I don’t wash my hands every time I pet my dogs, feed them or water them.

The other way it’s typically transmitted from your pet to you –  Big, fat, wet kisses!  Even though it takes about ten Giardia cysts to cause giardiasis, it can happen. Before you know it….you’re sliding it to first and you feel the sudden burst…I’m sure you can finish that childhood favorite on your own.

Tips from the Tech

  • Carry enough water for you and your pet to stay hydrated during summer walks and hikes.
  • Avoid drinking from unknown water sources.
  • Prevent pets from drinking from streams, lakes and puddles.
  • Be conscious of your pets’ bowel movements.
    • I see several clients each day that cannot tell me his or her pets’ bowel movement history. It’s important to know if your pet is having diarrhea.  There are many things that cause diarrhea; this leads to dehydration. This may lead to hospitalization, if your pet needs intravenous fluids to correct fluid loss.
  • If your pet starts having foul-smelling diarrhea, or you see an unexplained gradual weight loss, bring them to your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
    • Diagnosis involves performing a fecal examination, so be prepared to collect one.

If your pet has been diagnosed with Giardia:

  • Follow your veterinarian’s instructions thoroughly.
  • Practice good hygiene – wash hands after loving on you pet.
  • Bathe your pet regularly – monthly to biweekly with a moisturizing soap free pet shampoo.
  • Clean water and food bowls daily.
  • Provide fresh water daily.

Giardia is pretty gross!  Providing your pet with fresh water and observing your pets potty habits can help them (and you) avoid a outbreak.  My Pet Summer Hiking Series is almost complete, but I’ll keep blogging and promoting wellness for your pets at home!  Be sure to follow me, Aubrie, and learn more of my tips from the tech.

Pet Summer Hiking Series – Part Three

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Parasites…YUCK…Prevention…YUP! 

Parasites can be found hiking or camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and even your back yard.  Fleas, ticks, heartworm and Giardia are no laughing matter and can cause serious side effects if not prevented, and worse if not treated.

Fleas

Most pet owners in Reno-Tahoe area are under the assumption that our elevation is too high for fleas, but this is simply not true.  Fleas do live in this area. Are we infested with fleas like the Midwest or South?  No.  Do we have fleas? Yes.  Should we take the steps to prevent flea infestation? Yes.  These infestations can cause flea allergy dermatitis or flea bite sensitivity on you and your pet, as wells as infestation in your home.  The saliva from the fleas causes inflammation, itching and secondary skin lesions.  They are also the main vector for the common tapeworm, a zoonotic (transferred to people) parasite.  When cats and dogs ingest fleas containing tapeworm larvae (cysticercoids), they can become infected.  If you believe there is an issue, they need to be diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian with a dewormer immediately.

Ticks

 

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Image from Cesarsway.com

Ticks are small arachnids that must consume blood to complete their life cycle.  They feed on several types of animals including humans and our pets.  Ticks hang out in grassy areas, bushes, near creeks and rivers or trees and jump on the host for its’ next meal.  Ticks should be taken very seriously; they transmit serious diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.

Our wet spring has led to an increase of ticks in the Reno-Tahoe area, and we have already seen several patients with ticks in the hospital.

Types of ticks found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Sierra Foothills

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted tick – Most Common in the Reno-Tahoe area
  • American Dog Tick
  • Brown Dog Tick
  • Western Blacklegged Tick
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Photo courtesy of ticksinmaine.com – From left: a female deer tick, a male deer tick, a female dog tick and a male dog tick. 

After any outing, be sure to check your pet for ticks.  They like warm places with little fur and are often found hanging out in ears, around eyes, between toes and in the axillary (armpit) area. If you find a tick on your dog, or you for that matter, it’s best to remove it safely as soon as you can.  Check out the CDC’s tip to safely remove a tick!  If you can’t, make an appointment and have your veterinarian remove it ASAP.  The longer the tick is attached the more likely it is to transmit diseases.

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Prevention

There are several products available for flea and tick prevention.  Frontline Plus, Nexgard, k9 Advantix II, and Sentinel are just a few available.  At Lone Mountain Veterinary Hospital, we promote Merial Products – Frontline Plus and Nexgard.

Apply a preventative like Frontline Plus which is made in size appropriate doses for dogs and cats.  This will start killing fleas and ticks after just one application; be sure not to bathe or swim your dog for 24 hours.

Nexgard is the other preventative product we promote, and pet owners are ecstatic about it! Instead of applying it between your pets’ shoulder blades like Frontline Plus, it’s given by mouth as a soft, beef-flavor chew your DOG eats.  Note: Nexgard is only available FOR DOGS!!

Tips from the Tech

I suggest buying preventatives from your veterinarian.  The product will be guaranteed, since was stored properly and came directly from the vendor.  This will also ensure you get the correct product for your pet and do not mistakenly overdose or under dose your pet.

Applying and/or Giving Preventatives

  • READ LABELS CAREFULLY!
  • Follow directions exactly as stated on the label, bottle or packaging.
  • Always wear gloves, and wash your hands after application or if you get any product on your own skin.
  • Keep the products away from food and out of children’s reach.

Remember dogs and cats are VERY different; these products are specially formulated for each species!  Be sure you apply the correct preventative to the correct pet.  Applying canine Frontline to a feline patient can cause serious illness and even death.

Up next…Heartworm preventative, Giardia and emergency trail tips! Questions or tips? Post them here as a comment or Follow me…Aubrie, and stay up to date on my tech tips!

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Ruby isn’t worried about fleas or ticks; she’s protected by Nexgard!

 

Follow up….Get Rattled – Snake Avoidance Training Complete!

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Today at Galena Creek State Park, Godiva and Ruby successfully completed another rattlesnake avoidance training with the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Reno and Get Rattled-Rattlesnake Avoidance Training For Dogs.  The weather was perfect, nice and cool, which is uncommon for a Sunday morning in June in beautiful Reno, Nevada.

Ruby was up first, and this was her second rattlesnake avoidance training session.

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Since Ruby has aggression issues, I put a muzzle on her for everyone’s safety.  I could tell she had some recollection of the events to follow, as she did show aversion to having the remote training collar put on. The crew at Get Rattled were amazing though.  They handled her professionally and with compassion.  Since Ruby completed training three years ago, she wasn’t interested in going anywhere near the live rattlesnake.

Dogs have an associative memory and remember things based on their associations with certain things.  Because Ruby associated the rattlesnake with the “shock” correction, she only had to be corrected one time when smelling the caged snake.

Godiva was up next.  It was clear being a two-time participant of rattlesnake avoidance training, this third time was a charm.  She was tenaciously pulling away from the snake and the handler.

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Godiva’s associated memory of the rattlesnake served her well; she didn’t have to be corrected at all.  She eagerly ran back to me begging to get up in the van, and proves the association is with the snakes not with me taking her to the training.

Even though it had been 3 years since their last training, and some experts believe avoidance training should be performed in successive years, both Ruby and Godiva learned from their original encounters.

As a Licensed Veterinary Technician I highly recommend rattlesnake avoidance training and will testify that my dogs’ experience was a success.  As I stated in Part Two of my Pet Summer Hiking Series, the short discomfort experienced from the training collar heavily outweighs the pain endured from a venomous snake bite.

A big thanks goes out to Get Rattled and the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Reno for holding this event and educating dog owners on the dangers of rattlesnakes.  It was obvious that Get Rattled truly believes in the service they provide; they are passionate about protecting dogs from the danger of venomous snakes.

Look out for Part Three in my Pet Summer Hiking Series – keeping your pet safe for an enjoyable hiking season!

Pet Summer Hiking Series – Part Two

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Beware! When out hiking, a buzzing sound in the brush is not only alarming, but potentially deadly…especially to our furry four legged friends! As you may or may not know, rattlesnakes are a threat in most of the western states including the Reno-Tahoe area.  “Part Two” of this series explores how to avoid rattlesnakes, how to react if your pet is bitten and what to expect from the veterinarian.

Not only do rattlesnakes inhabit rocky areas, sagebrush, grasslands, and agricultural areas, but they’ve also been seen at elevations of over 12,000 feet!

Rattlesnake Map

Map source. http://www.californiaherps.com/index.html

The Nevada Division of Wildlife identifies five venomous snake species commonly found out west that can be dangerous to people and pets.  They are the sidewinder, Mohave, speckled, western diamondback and Great Basin rattlesnakes.  Rattlesnakes have broad, triangular shaped heads, where as non-venomous snakes have a narrow head.  The Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) populates a large area of the West Coast; it can be found through most of California into Canada and expanding east into Western Colorado. The subspecies, Great Basin Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus lutosus) is found in California and a small region east of the Sierras near Mono Lake.  It is the most common rattlesnake found in the Tahoe Basin.

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Pictures of Great Basin Rattlesnakes from http://www.californiaherps.com/index.html

Below are some recommendations on how to react if an encounter occurs.

Tips from the Tech

  1. Be aware of your surroundings and keep your pet on a leash when hiking this summer. If you do spot a snake, move slowly and give ‘em space.  Keeping your dog on a leash in areas having high rattlesnake risk, will allow you to be in control and avoid the bite in the first place. Most snakes don’t want confrontation, and rattlesnakes are no different; they just want to escape.   But when a dog comes sniffing and poking his or her nose into a snake’s territory…whammo!!  This common dog behavior usually results in a bite on the face, neck or leg.  This will be a high stress situation, but remain calm.  It does neither you nor your pet any good if you get bitten too.
  2. Seek veterinary medical attention IMMEDIATELY. Untreated bites lead to difficulty breathing, further tissue necrosis, shock and even death.  Again reacting calmly in this situation is key. An increase in your dog’s pulse from anxiety circulates venom more quickly. Until you make it to the vet, limit your pet’s activity to keep venom from spreading as rapidly.  If your dog is small enough, carry them.  Use cold water baths or cold compresses to control swelling.   A tourniquet can be applied using a belt or long stocking, but be sure to loosen it for 3o seconds every five to ten minutes.  DO NOT do anything further to try to extract the venom.  This only makes things worse.
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    Booker, the first dog with a rattlesnake bite we’ve treated this summer.

     

  3. Because rattlesnake venom produces both local and systemic effects, your veterinarian’s recommended treatment plan may include: blood testing, blood pressure monitoring, intravenous fluids, pain medication and in some cases Antivenin administration.  Antivenin isn’t always used due to cost and possible side effects; be sure to ask your vet if it’s an effective treatment for your pet.  Snake bites take several days, sometimes weeks, to heal; some pets may need to be hospitalized for best chance of recovery.

Remember to take rattlesnakes seriously.  Avoidance is the most effect solution.   Just following these simple suggestions may help save your pets life and could prevent a costly trip to your veterinarian.

Other Considerations

Rattlesnake Vaccine

The rattlesnake vaccine is made by Red Rock Biologics and stimulates your dog’s immunity to protect them against rattlesnake venom.  There is however controversy about the vaccine and potential side effects.  I don’t vaccinate my dogs with it anymore.  After the injections, both our dogs got a pus filled pocket under their skin at the injection site.  It took weeks of hot and cold packing before it was resolved, and Godiva still has a defect where it was given.  At Lone Mountain Veterinary Hospital, my current employer, we only administer the vaccine when owners insist.  Before vaccination, we inform them regarding the side effects and they are required to sign a waiver.  It is my recommendation to not use the vaccine, but check with your pets veterinarian to determine what is right for you.

Avoidance Training

This is one way to prevent snake bites.  Due to the method, this doesn’t go without criticism.  While no training is guaranteed 100%, rattlesnake avoidance training has proven highly effective in preventing envenomation by rattlesnakes.  Both my dogs have been through training, and are registered again this year.  The dogs are lead to caged rattlesnakes where the can see, hear and smell them.  Once the dog becomes curious and goes to inspect the snake they are given a quick controlled electronic correction signaling an undesired behavior.  The process is repeated to ensure the training is clear and the dog associates getting close to the site, smell or sound of the snake with the correction.  Personally, I think the short discomfort felt from the “shock” of the remote training collar outweighs the days of pain induced by a venomous snake bite.

Although there is no way to guarantee a safe outing, following these techniques in rattlesnake country will give you a better chance in successfully avoiding or dealing with an encounter should it happen.  If you’ve heard of suggestions or advice that differs from mine please let me know! I would love to discuss the topic further to help you and your pet!

Stay tuned for the additional parts in this series.  It will help you and your pet have a great hiking season!

Resources for Avoidance Training

http://www.gspcofreno.com/

http://socalrattlesnakeavoidancetraining.com/Schedule.php

 

Pet Summer Hiking Series – Part One

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Ruby hiking in Goni Canyon, Carson City, NV

Summer is approaching FAST and temperatures are already hitting the 90’s here in beautiful Northern Nevada.  Living in the Reno-Tahoe area, being an avid animal lover, pit bull owner and outdoor enthusiast prompted me to share my knowledge, and opinion, about how to hit the trails of the Sierra Nevada Mountains safely with pets.

Hiking during the summer can pose many dangers.  At times it can even be life-threatening, to both you and your pet.  This summer, I’ll touch on a many of these potential hiking dangers in my Pet Summer Hiking Series.  My mission is to educate and inform pet owners, like you, before hitting the trails this summer and avoid costly mistakes.

On any summer hike, be sure to carry plenty of water for both you and your pooch.  Dehydration is real, and it happens fast.  Dogs don’t sweat like we do: they pant.  The hotter they are, and the more they pant; the faster they become dehydrated.  Be sure to pack a bowl, like Ruffwear’s Bivy Bowl, to provide fresh water along the trial.

 

My dog knows how to drink directly from a Camelbak, but not all dogs do. It’s not necessary to go out and buy the most expensive gear, but if you’re looking – Ruffwear’s SingleTrek Pack allows your dog to carry his or her own water and has been rated 5 stars!

Remember, temperatures on the ground can quickly heat up to over  160⁰F, scalding foot pads, causing serious burns, severe pain, blistering, and infection.  Try to avoid peak heat times (12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.), but if it’s unavoidable; use protective footwear.  Many types of booties are available from pet stores and/or online. My dogs wear Ultra Paws Rugged Dog Boots in the summer and winter, and we’ve been happy with them year after year.

Godiva in Boots
Godiva in her Ultra Paws Rugged Dog Boots

 

Additionally, trail etiquette, though not the most dangerous factor when hiking, still is one of the most important; and knowing how to yield to pedestrians, equestrians and bicyclists is only one simple aspect.   Not only is it important to yield the trail to equestrians, it is imperative to be alert for other dogs, as well.  Owning an aggressive dog myself, created a new awareness for disobedient dogs and hikers approaching us on the trail.   To help dog owners identify dogs that are NOT approachable, The Yellow Dog Project, was created.  This global movement helps inform people that a “yellow dog” is one who needs space.  If you approach a dog donning a yellow ribbon on his or her leash, take the time to give them space. Finally, be sure to keep your pet on a leash in areas where off-leash activity is prohibited, or your dog cannot be recalled or controlled by voice command.

Just following these few simple tips will help you avoid an altercation and possibly a very painful experience for your dog – not to mention a costly trip to your veterinarian.

Feel free to contact me, leave your own hiking adventure story, or just comment.