Tag: veterinary

Heartworm Disease, Prevention and Treatment

The Importance of Prevention
Preventing Heartworms is easy and necessary year- round here. Prevention acts by clearing the bloodstream of any heartworm larvae, before they mature into adults. We have multiple options available including a monthly tablet that prevents heartworm, deworms for common intestinal parasites and prevents fleas, or a 6 and 12 month injection that makes prevention more convenient. For cats we have topical options that are very effective against heartworm disease.
Ivermectin
Resistance

Ivermectin was the main ingredient in heartworm prevention for many decades. Due to its overuse, this active ingredient is no longer nearly as effective and we have seen several positive cases over the past 5 years despite routinely receiving their monthly Ivermectin based heartworm prevention (example Heartgard®, Triheart®). We do not recommend using Ivermectin based preventatives for this reason.

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm Disease is a systemic issue, meaning it affects many systems of the body including the heart, lungs, and kidney. Within 6-8 months of exposure the small larvae develop into worms that are from 6-12” long and clog up the heart chambers, pulmonary arteries, and reduce proper blood flow to other organs. They continue to breed within the heart chamber, creating more and more heartworms. This weakens the heart and can cause respiratory distress, heart failure as well as poor kidney function over time and can lead to death if left untreated.

Mosquitoes – The Flying Disease Vector

Heartworm Disease is carried by mosquitoes. It is transmitted when the mosquito takes a blood meal from a pet that has active Heartworm Disease, and when they take their next meal, they inject a small amount of blood into the new victim, pushing microfilariae (young heartworms) into their blood stream. Because this vector is so common, dogs AND cats can contract this disease.

Why is Heartworm so Prevalent Here?

We have a very large population of roaming stray dogs AND owned dogs and cats that are not routinely on prevention and have heartworm disease. This makes the disease very prevalent here and it is extremely rare that dogs or cats who are not on routine heartworm prevention do not contract the disease.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing heartworm is simple and inexpensive with a blood test. We require annual testing of all our canine patients receiving prevention, because catching this disease early reduces the cost and time of treatment, as well as prevents long term damage from happening to your pet. In addition, if you are purchasing your prevention from Bark and Bliss, the manufacturer of the heartworm preventative will often cover the cost of treatment when your pet has been tested annually, and has received prevention as directed. Lastly, giving a dog heartworm prevention that already has active disease can cause them to get extremely sick or even die.

Treatment​

There are multiple options for the treatment of moderate to severe heartworm disease in dogs. The fastest treatment
involves a month of antibiotics to render the heartworms sterile and make it safe for treatment, followed by a series of 3 injections given over 3 months. These injections slowly kill off the adult worms. Another treatment option involves the month of antibiotics, and a topical treatment applied monthly for a 10-month period. For more mild cases, we often can
do a 3-month treatment cycle. In cats there are no treatments available, so prevention is key.

Prevention is the Best Medicine​

Heartworm disease kills a great deal of pets in Turks and Caicos. Prevention of heartworm disease has an average
cost of $18.50 or less per month versus treatment which will cost at a minimum $42 per month. We can help you
find the most cost effective and convenient option for your pet, to keep them protected and safe from this common and fully preventable disease.

  • Firstly, when your dog gets worked up give them a verbal cue that works to both catch their attention and provides them with something to do. That cue can be “sit,” “down,” or even “relax.” You just want to make sure you can use it consistently.
  • Secondly, use the word until your dog performs the behavior that you want, such as lying down, sitting at your feet, or even just stopping what they are doing and looking at you. You may have to show them what to do the first few times until they get the hang of it.

External Parasites

Fleas, Ticks and Mange

The Importance of Prevention

Preventing flea and tick bites
is the only way to reduce exposure to the disease they carry. Bark and Bliss carries a full array of effective preventatives for both dogs and cats.

Damage to the Skin Barrier

Mange, fleas and ticks all damage the skin barrier which results in water loss and can make your pet more susceptible to infection, and allergic skin disease. In addition, they are irritating, cause itching and pain, and often result in a weakened
bond between the pet and owner.

Are Topical Products or Flea Collars for Dogs Effective?

In this environment they are
not effective. Topical treatments, though often less expensive, are a poor choice here as they are very ineffective against our
population of external parasites and are often toxic to the pet. Flea collars are similar, they only affect the parasites that touch the collar and are also frequently toxic to the pet.

Little Bugs – Big Problem

External parasites are extremely prevalent in the Turks and Caicos due to our hot, humid weather. Because of this, fleas and ticks do not die or hibernate and are active year-round. Fleas and ticks transmit several diseases that can be very debilitating and over time can even kill a dog or cat if left undetected and untreated.

Tick and Flea Borne Disease

There are multiple diseases caused by Tick bites that we commonly see in patients on this island. Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Babesia are the 3 most common. These diseases can cause blood loss anemia, loss of ability to clot blood, joint pain, kidney disease and generalized lethargy, fever and poor appetite. The disease occurs secondary to bacteria that the tick has in its system, which is transmitted into the pet when they start feeding on them. These diseases can remain dormant within the pet’s system for weeks, months and even years until the immune system recognizes the issue. Fleas, much like ticks, take a blood meal from their host. In puppies, this can be life threatening as they have limited blood supply in general and can get severely anemic in a short period of time. In adult animals, it can also cause anemia due to the sheer number of fleas, but also causes some more severe illness such as Bartonella, Mycoplasma, Haemoplasma and tapeworm infections.

The Role of Tapeworms

Tapeworms utilize fleas as hosts, which means when a pet ingests a flea, which happens as they clean themselves or eat another animal infested with fleas, they then infect themselves with tapeworms. Tapeworms are an intestinal parasite that utilizes the hosts nutrition to survive, grow and breed. Leading to weight loss, poor haircoat, reduced
gastrointestinal movement and function, and poor condition of the pet overtime.

Mange

Demodex mange is a mite that is very common, particularly in bully breeds. All dogs have it, but some breeds have a misfunction of their immune system that is inherited, leading to a lack of control of the mange mite. This poor control leads to overgrowth of the mites, and because they live in the hair follicles causes hair loss. It is common to see bully breeds that have poor hair growth, because they came from parents that also had the genetic defect of their immune system. Ideally, dogs that have a history of mange, should not be bred for this reason.

Diagnosis of External Parasite Disease

For patients with suspected tick, flea or mange borne disease there are various tests that we utilize at Bark and Bliss. There is a simple blood test for tick borne disease, that can be combined with a heartworm test that allows us to identify antibody response to Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Lyme Disease. A blood smear examined under a microscope can identify Babesia and flea borne diseases. Mange is often diagnosed with a skin scraping, but given its prevalence in our population of pets it is often diagnosed based on breed, age and hair loss pattern.

Treatments and Prevention

Treatment of tick-borne disease requires, at a minimum, the use of antibiotics for at least a month and can be quite costly. Treatment of Mange is often life long and requires good nutrition, a monthly treatment and sometimes medicated baths. Flea borne disease may require significant medication, testing and blood products, as well as intestinal parasite deworming. Prevention with oral products for dogs and topical treatments for cats is the most cost effective and safest way to prevent disease these diseases.

  • Firstly, when your dog gets worked up give them a verbal cue that works to both catch their attention and provides them with something to do. That cue can be “sit,” “down,” or even “relax.” You just want to make sure you can use it consistently.
  • Secondly, use the word until your dog performs the behavior that you want, such as lying down, sitting at your feet, or even just stopping what they are doing and looking at you. You may have to show them what to do the first few times until they get the hang of it.

The Role of Food

Proper Diets

Cooking for
Your Pets

Feeding a balanced diet is difficult to do with home cooking and preparation. It can be done, but requires guidance and a tailored approach for your specific dog or cat’s needs, as well as trace minerals and vitamins. If you prefer to cook for your pets, take the time to get a Nutritional Consultation done by a veterinary nutritionist. We can assist with this at Bark and Bliss to make sure your pet is getting a complete and appropriate diet.

Knowing the Proper Diet

Balanced diets will note on the bag of food what life stage they are meant for. Diets that have been tested and proven to be complete diets will have a seal that notes, AAFCO feeding trial approved.

The Role of Your Pet’s Diet

The food your pet eats, has a big effect on how they function. Much like in humans, where the correct nutrition can prevent disease, improve our sport performance, build healthy muscle, the same is true for pets. Feeding them the right food, with proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals, leads to the best functioning pet. The opposite is true as well, feeding your pet a poor diet without the proper minerals, vitamins, and healthy proteins can cause reduced growth and muscle development, poorly functioning immune systems, poor skin and haircoat, diarrhea and poor gastrointestinal function.

How does Nutrition Affect Pregnant Pets?

Proper nutrition should start from gestation of puppies and kittens. Pregnant pets should be fed a quality puppy or kitten diet early in their pregnancy and throughout, to give them the nutrition to form healthy fetuses with proper mineral and vitamin content for development of healthy cartilage, bones, eyes and organ development. Mother’s that are fed limited or poor nutrition, will and often do have smaller young born, that could have congenital abnormalities that aren’t noted until the pups are older. This can lead to failing pups and kittens, that do not live long or pets that have chronic issues throughout their life.

Feeding Growing Animals Properly, Building Blocks for Life

Nutrition is of the utmost importance in growing animals. It is paramount that puppies and kittens are fed the right food for growth. Feeding them a high-quality food, results in the most appropriate growth rate, well-functioning immune systems and healthy skin and coat. Puppies should also be fed a puppy diet based on their expected full-grown size. Those expected to be over 50lbs need to be fed a Large Breed Puppy diet to get them the right balance of minerals and vitamins for proper bone growth.  Small breed puppies, and toy breeds, should also be fed a Small Breed Puppy diet, again so they get the proper nutrients for appropriate bone growth and organ function.

Nutrition for Managing Disease Conditions

Specific diets have been created for many ailments to manage disease processes with the support of nutrition. For example, dogs that have demodectic mange will often have better hair-growth when on a proper diet in combination with mange treatments. This is because the food is boosting the immune function and the body’s own ability to fight the mange.
There are diets for managing skin allergies, kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid and neurological conditions as well. There are even diets that help reduce allergens in cat saliva, to make them less allergenic to their owners. All of this , helps support even further how important the role of nutrition is in the health of our pets and ourselves.

Grain Free Diets ​

Grain free diets were created by well-intentioned people. Unfortunately, pets do not get celiac disease and for dogs this lack of grains has led to cardiac abnormalities in thousands of dogs as they are omnivores and require appropriate grains for normal heart function. We do not recommend ever feeding your pets a strictly grain free diet, but it can be incorporated into a complete diet that does include grains.

High Quality Diets ​

Most of the larger food companies have done a great deal of research on their brands and have a quality product. We recommend Purina Proplan®, as it is a thoroughly researched, extremely high-quality product that produces great results in our patients. Our staff is very familiar with these diets and feeds it to their own pets. Ask us what food is right for your pet.

  • Firstly, when your dog gets worked up give them a verbal cue that works to both catch their attention and provides them with something to do. That cue can be “sit,” “down,” or even “relax.” You just want to make sure you can use it consistently.
  • Secondly, use the word until your dog performs the behavior that you want, such as lying down, sitting at your feet, or even just stopping what they are doing and looking at you. You may have to show them what to do the first few times until they get the hang of it.

Joint Health

The Importance of Joint Health

Joints are very important to the function of the body. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to injury either from congenital issues such as hip dysplasia or luxating patellas, injuries from a misstep or overuse, or even getting hit by a car. The long- term damage is often noted much later in life and can significantly impair movement, comfort and quality of life.

Exercise to Maintain Muscle Function

Movement is the enemy of arthritis. It is important for animals to stay active to prevent the loss of muscle tone and further stiffening of the joints. Our team can tailor an exercise plan to keep your pet’s muscles strong and supportive for best function and ongoing mobility.
Swimming is often a very good choice to support muscle health, without your pet having to bear the load of their weight.

Joint Function

Joints allow bodies to move. There are multiple joints in the limbs, such as the knees, hips, hocks, elbows and joints in the phalanges (finger and toes), and the spine itself is a long series of joints. Synovial fluid, or joint fluid helps keep comfortable movement of the joints, and ligaments and tendons support the boney and muscle attachment to the joints. Damage to joints can look many different ways including infection in the synovial fluid, damage to the ligaments or tendons, or even muscles that are uneven in strength pulling joints in uneven ways causing damage to the cartilage and bone. Arthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease, happens when the cartilage gets damaged and the body creates what are called Osteophytes. Osteophytes are boney protrusions that interrupt normal movement of the joint, causing pain and stiffness.

Supporting Healthy Joint Function

Keeping joints healthy is very important to your pet’s quality of life. Bark and Bliss carries many options to maintain joint health, starting from our Purina Proplan ®diets that have building blocks for healthy joints in all diets. In addition, we have prescription diets for joint support, highly effective and bioavailable joint supplements, injectable joint protectants, as well as multimodal pain treatments and anti-inflammatories when quality of life is affected by the pain.

We also have Class IV Therapeutic Lasers that can provide a great deal of comfort and pain relief for ailing joints, for better mobility and best quality of life. 

The Importance of Weight Management

Pet’s joints were meant to bear the normal lean body muscle mass they should have for their frame. Overweight pets are prone to further joint concerns due to the joints being overused. This leads to break down of cartilage faster than would be the case in a healthy weight pet, and in general in 2-3 years shorter of a life span when compared to pets of a healthy weight. 

Exercise and diet are both key to maintaining a healthy weight in your pet. Our team can help guide you for the proper amount to feed your pets to avoid weight gain and maintain a healthy weight.to

Diagnosis of Joint Disease

A physical exam can often identify crepitance, the hallmark of Degenerative Joint Disease, often even before noticeable changes are visible in your pet’s mobility. Radiographs in some cases are needed to further define the damage and best course of action going forward.

Treatments for Joint Conditions

Joint concerns are very individual and treatment often requires a specific approach for that particular pet’s lifestyle, ailment and level of ease at taking medications, and availability of the owner to work on therapies with us and at home. In some cases, surgery is required, and others a supplement or diet change is all that’s needed, whereas other animals need supplementation, medications and laser treatments to feel their best. Let us get your pet on the therapy that works best for them.

  • Firstly, when your dog gets worked up give them a verbal cue that works to both catch their attention and provides them with something to do. That cue can be “sit,” “down,” or even “relax.” You just want to make sure you can use it consistently.
  • Secondly, use the word until your dog performs the behavior that you want, such as lying down, sitting at your feet, or even just stopping what they are doing and looking at you. You may have to show them what to do the first few times until they get the hang of it.

The Importance of Skin Barrier Health

The Importance of Skin Barrier Health

Here in Turks and Caicos, a great deal of our canine and a few of the feline patients, struggle with various skin issues. Among them, external parasites such as fleas, ticks and mange; sunburn, superficial skin infections, allergies, scrapes and wounds and irritation secondary to plant and insect contact.

Damage to the
Skin Barrier

Damage to these layers causes loss of water, ability for various microscopic items to gain access to the deeper layers and cause detrimental inflammatory reactions, ongoing skin irritation, pain and infections, and lifelong allergies.

Skin Health

The skin is the largest organ in our dog or cat’s body. It has several layers to protect animals from the elements, irritants and allergens in the environment. It also prevents water loss and hosts a large number of beneficial bacteria on the surface layers, which have a mutually beneficial relationship with the skin.

Treatments to Support a Healthy Skin Barrier

Bark and Bliss carries a full arsenal of supplements that support a healthy skin barrier. These supplements include highly bioavailable fish oils, medicated shampoos and conditioning treatments, proper parasite controls, topical treatments that reduce inflammation and nutraceuticals that have a broad-based response to supporting skin health and rebuilding the skin barrier. 

Following an examination by our veterinarian, we can tailor the best plan forward for your pet and determine what treatments are ideal for your pet’s individual condition.

Repairing the Damage

Supporting the skin barrier takes time and commitment on the part of the owner/pet parent. It takes nearly 3 weeks for the full cycle of skin rejuvenation, and full repairing the damage to the skin can take 3-4 cycles. You will see improvement during this time, but it is important to understand the full response will take 9-12 weeks.

Chronic Skin Conditions versus Temporary Skin Conditions

Many skin issues are chronic and manageable conditions, versus curable. But there are some that are more temporary. Temporary skin conditions include sunburn, abrasions, and external parasites such as fleas and ticks.

Chronic concerns such as mange and allergies must be managed and are not curable, so require ongoing treatment to keep flare-ups at a minimum.

Diagnosis of Chronic Conditions

Chronic skin conditions often require diagnostics, such as skin scrapings, culture of infections, thyroid, food trials and or allergy testing to determine the best options to reduce symptoms and improve the comfort of your pet. Rest assured at Bark and Bliss we have all of these options available.

Treatments for Chronic Conditions

Skin disease is a constantly evolving issue, with new developments on the horizon at all times. Our team stays on top of the newest and safest options to keep our patients healthy, comfortable and functioning at their best.

  • Firstly, when your dog gets worked up give them a verbal cue that works to both catch their attention and provides them with something to do. That cue can be “sit,” “down,” or even “relax.” You just want to make sure you can use it consistently.
  • Secondly, use the word until your dog performs the behavior that you want, such as lying down, sitting at your feet, or even just stopping what they are doing and looking at you. You may have to show them what to do the first few times until they get the hang of it.