Kate and Don discuss a variety of pet tips directly related to summer and the increasing temperature. They start off the show discussing how the heat and the sun can adversely affect our pets and how to keep your pet cool. They discuss what to consider when leaving your dog in the car during the summer months and why shaving a dogs fur to keep them cool is usually a bad idea. Then they switch to water safety, followed by talking about how to deal with bug bites, stings, ticks, heartworm, fleas, and seasonal allergies like those caused by tree and grass pollens. Then they move to chemicals like lawn fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides and all sorts of other “…cides” that are routinely used in our environment to kill something we do not like. Natural products, like Cedarcide, a safe product for tick control are also discussed. Next, they discuss the gatherings of friends and family that occur in the summer and how that may negatively affect your pet. Lastly, they talk about the pros and cons of traveling and vacationing with pets including steps you can take to make the experience more fun than exasperating.
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.
In this podcast from June 18th, Kate and Don discuss a variety of pet tips directly related to summer and the increasing temperature. They start off the show discussing how the heat and sun can adversely affect our pets. Then they switch to water safety, followed by talking about how to deal with bug bites, stings, parasites, and seasonal allergies like those caused by tree and grass pollens. Then they move to chemicals like lawn fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides and all sorts of other “…cides” that are routinely used in our environment to kill something we do not like. Next, they discuss the pros and cons of traveling and vacationing with pets including steps you can take to make the experience more fun than exasperating. Finally, they talk about the gatherings of people that occur in the summer and how that may negatively affect your pet.
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM every Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show, and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.
It is that time of year when we invite Dr. Dave Cloutier on to the show to chat with us about the latest in parasite prevention for our pets. We start off discussing intestinal worms and heart worm, followed by ticks and then fleas. All of these parasites can threaten our pet’s health and our own as well. Dr. Cloutier provides guidance on how to monitor your pet’s health and how to safely and effectively prevent these parasites. We also address the importance of discussing any and all such preventatives that you use with your veterinarian as many of these products should not be used together and while a product may be safe for a dog, it may be very harmful to a cat.
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 12 Noon on Saturday. If you’re not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show, and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.
A new puppy can be a great addition to your family, but they will also require some work on your part. You will very likely have questions about; housetraining, socialization, play biting and nipping, chewing, training methods, wellness exams, nutrition, vaccinations, babies and dogs, kids and dogs and more. This post includes links to articles and podcasts that address the most common questions people ask me when they are thinking of getting a new puppy or that have just added one to their home. While we strongly encourage everyone to attend a Puppy Headstart class while the puppy is between 8 and 16 weeks of age, these materials will provide you with some additional information. You can read or listen to them in any order you choose; however, I believe you will get the most benefit if you go through them in the order that they are listed.
My first word of advice; “patience.” It is very easy to want the ideal puppy immediately, but just as “Rome was not built in a day,” Your puppy will not be the perfect companion in a week, nor in all likelihood in a month. Training is a process, and as such it takes time. Yes, there will times you may become frustrated, but when you look back in a year you will realize it was a precious time for you and your pup, one filled with learning and fun!
I encourage you to read the following shared blog post, all about patience, by dog trainer Nancy Tanner. Read it, print it, and then post it on your refrigerator, or somewhere in your home where it is close at hand anytime you are feeling frustrated with your puppy. –
Enrolling yourself and your puppy in a reward-based dog training class designed by a Certified Professional Dog Trainer is the best thing you can do for you and your dog. Not all trainers and dog training classes are equal. Because dog training is currently a non-regulated and non-licensed profession the quality of instruction and practices used can vary widely, sometimes into the inhumane. The following article will provide you with information on what to look for in a dog trainer and dog training facility.
Do not try to teach your puppy everything at once. In class, we will teach you certain behaviors, in a specific order, for a reason; to make training easier.
During the critical socialization period, between 8 and 16 weeks of age, it is far more important to work on planning and appropriately socializing and habituating your dog than it is to teach them to shake or any other behavior. This is a limited period, and you want to make the most of it. Inadequate or inappropriate socialization is a common reason dogs develop behavioral problems such as aggression and anxiety.
If you are already having problems with your dog guarding food and other items, stealing things, or growling, make an appointment with us for a Help Now! session as soon as possible. Punishment in any form will likely make these behaviors worse and could result in someone being bitten.
Dogs and children both need training and supervision to learn how to appropriately and safely interact with one another. Dogs and children will not automatically get along. If you do not have children, your dog will still need to be socialized with children and learn how to interact with them. If you have children and a dog, you will need to spend time working with both. I highly recommend the book A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge. You will discover some things that you probably did not know about dogs while learning how to teach your children about interacting with your dog and any other dog they may meet.
Think carefully about what you teach your puppy; intentionally or unintentionally. Un-training a behavior takes a whole lot more time and energy than training a behavior. A trick like “shake” is cute, but think long and hard if you want a dog that will always be trying to get every person they see to shake, even when they have muddy paws.
If there are multiple people that will be interacting with your dog, discuss what cues, visual and verbal, that you will use for specific behaviors so that you are all being consistent. Do not be in a hurry to add a visual (hand signal) or a verbal cue to a behavior. We do not start using a cue until we are confident that the dog understands the behavior in multiple contexts and environments. If you start using the cue to soon, you may need to change it. We will talk about that more in class.
If you have questions that just will not wait until class starts, contact us and make an appointment for a Help Now! session.
The blog posts listed below will all be very useful for anyone thinking about getting a new puppy or for those of you that just added a puppy to your family.
The shows listed below are from The Woof Meow Show (www.woofmeowshow.com) and cover a wide variety of topics that will be of interest to anyone with a new puppy. Click on the title to listen to the show.
Common Puppy Training Issues
<Click on the title to listen to the show>
Podcast – We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)! – part 1 – This show and part 2 of this show, which will aired on March 11th, are companion shows to our January 14th and 21st shows entitled Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family. Once you have found your new furry companion, whether they are a puppy or an older dog, there is much you need to be thinking about before you bring your new friend home. In this show, Don and Kate discuss the things you will need, might need, and don’t need. They finish the show with a discussion of the importance of a well thought out socialization and habituation plan for a puppy. If you have a puppy or dog selected, or are thinking about getting a canine companion, this show will help you prepare for your new dog. FIRST AIR DATE: 4MAR17
Podcast – We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)! – part 2 – This show and part 1 of this show, which aired on March 4th, are companion shows to our January 14th and 21st shows entitled Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family. In this show Kate and Don address the most typical behavior concerns with a new puppy or dog; housetraining, jumping up on people, play biting, and chewing. While this show is no substitute for a well-designed puppy class, it will get you pointed in the right direction. FIRST AIR DATE: 11MAR17
Podcast – How to Choose A Dog Trainer – Kate, and Don discuss what to look for when choosing a dog trainer and dog training class, as well as what to avoid. Dog training and recommended approaches to training a dog have changed dramatically as we have learned more about canines. As a result, we now know that some long-standing methods used to train a dog in the past, are in fact detrimental and can cause serious, long-term harm to your dog. Learn what to look for so that you and your dog have the best experience possible. FIRST AIR DATE: 7JAN17
Podcast – The benefits of training your dog and 2017 Training Classes at Green Acres – Kate and Don discuss why training a dog is so beneficial to all involved; the dog, the dog’s immediate family, and society in general. They discuss the advantages of working with a certified professional dog trainer so that you have someone that can coach both you and your dog when things are not going as expected. Additionally, they discuss why choosing a trainer that is committed to pain-free, force-free and fear-free training is so important. Lastly, they discuss the training classes that will be offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop in 2017. FIRST AIR DATE: 10DEC16
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1 – Dr. Hanks interviews Don and Kate about their experiences as professional dog trainers. He asks Kate and Don about how training has changed in the past 26 years since Mark began his practice, why training a dog is important, the importance of training for mental enrichment, how breed effects training and compatibility with a family, how human intervention has adversely effected health and behavior, researching dogs before one decides what dog and breed to get, making temperament a key decision when picking a dog, what we typically teach a client and their dog, Green Acres holistic approach to training (husbandry, nutrition, body language, ethology, and training), inadvertent reinforcement of undesirable behaviors, the continuing necessity to refute antiquated and inaccurate myths about canine behavior, the optimal age for starting training, the structure of Green Acres training classes, Green Acres program to help parents find the best pet for them, how family lifestyles have changed and how that affects time for a dog, knowing when to wait before starting a group training class, and how they deal with special needs rescue dogs.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2 – Dr. Hanks asks Kate and Don about: Green Acres holistic approach to training (husbandry, nutrition, body language, ethology, and training) and how we work with families to understand their dog and the importance of having a good foundation of education so people can better understand their dogs, how some students may attend class without their dog either because their dog is sick, in heat or simply because the dog learns better at home, private training options at Green Acres, the critical period of puppy socialization and habituation, why socialization needs to be actively planned and implemented by owners – it doesn’t just happen, what do you do you when want your puppy to be a therapy dog, the difference between therapy dogs, service/assistance dogs, and emotional support dogs, the fake service dog epidemic, can you teach an old dog new tricks, how do you deal with constant barking, and how do you deal with clients that need the dogs behavior changed tomorrow.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3 – Dr. Hanks asks Kate and Don about: dominance, pack hierarchy and alphas and the current science which indicates wolves are a cooperative social species, the benefits of kind leadership as opposed to coercive based leadership, the myth of dogs doing things just to please us, temperament and personality in dogs, the importance of knowing parents because of the genetic role in temperament, “stubborn” dogs versus under-motivated dogs, epigenetics and the possibility of mental health disorders in dogs like autism and PTSD, and temperament as a continuum and nature versus nurture.
Housetraining – In support of APDT National Train Your Dog Month Kate and discuss housetraining tips for people with new puppies or for dog owners with older dogs that don’t quite get it. We’ll discuss our proven housetraining program which is also available as a handout on our website – (http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/02/16/housetraining/).
First Air Date: 5JAN13
Dogs and Babies with Jennifer Shryock from Family Paws Parent Education – Kate and Don interview Jennifer Shryock the founder of Family Paws Pet Education about their innovative programs; Dogs & Storks™ and the Dog and Baby Connection. We’ll discuss why prior planning is so important for the successful integration of a new baby in a home with a dog and what you can do when you have questions.
First Air Date: 17AUG13
Dog Bite Prevention & Doggone Safe with Teresa Lewin of Doggone Safe- part 1 – In part one of this two-part series Kate and Don talk with Teresa Lewin, one of the founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit dedicated to dog bite prevention through education. In this first show, we discuss the dog bite problem (50% of all children will be taken to the ER for a dog bite by the time they are 12), why these bites usually occur, and what Doggone Safe and their partners like Green Acres Kennel Shop are doing to help prevent them. If you have dogs and children or family with either, or if you work with children, you will want to listen to this show. Checkout the dog bite prevention page on our website for more information – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-bite-prevention
First Air Date: 6APR13
Dog Bite Prevention & Doggone Safe with Teresa Lewin of Doggone Safe- part 2 – In part two of this two-part series Kate and Don talk with Teresa Lewin, one of the founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit dedicated to dog bite prevention through education. In this second show, we discuss Doggone Safe’s innovative Be A Tree program for children and their Be Doggone Safe at Work program for adults that encounter dogs during work. We’ll discuss how these programs work and their availability through Green Acres Kennel Shop. If you have dogs and children or family with either, or if you work with children, you will want to listen to this show. Checkout the dog bite prevention page on our website for more information – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-bite-prevention
First Air Date: 13APR13
Pet Food Myths – part 1 – In part one of this two-part series, Don and Kate discuss several myths and conceptions pet guardians have about pet food. The fact is that not all pet foods are the same, and the quality varies greatly. Kate and Don reveal these myths and guide the listeners on how to evaluate their pet’s food so that they can provide their pet with optimal nutrition that fits their budget. First Air Date: 6JUN11
Pet Food Myths – part 2 – In part two of this two-part series, Don and Kate discuss several myths and conceptions pet guardians have about pet food. The fact is that not all pet foods are the same, and the quality varies greatly. Kate and Don reveal these myths and guide the listeners on how to evaluate their pet’s food so that they can provide their pet with optimal nutrition that fits their budget. First Air Date: 13JUN11
As summer approaches, not only do the temperatures rise, but we also tend to spend more time outside enjoying the beautiful weather. With the warm weather come some potential dangers and several things that need to be considered if we are to keep our pets safe and healthy. With a few simple precautions, summer can be a time of great fun for both you and your pets. So simply, take the time to plan ahead and have a great summer!
The Heat & Sun
Our pets, especially the young, elderly and overweight, are at increased risk for dehydration and heat stroke as the temperatures increase; both can be life threatening. Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include:
unsteadiness and staggering
a fast pulse
Signs of even more dangerous heat stroke include:
high body temperature
vomiting & diarrhea
a deep red or purple tongue and gums
If you observe these symptoms in your pet you need to immediately get your pet out of the heat and you need to contact a veterinarian. You can use cool water (not cold!) to cool down your pet, as you transport them to your veterinarian. Do NOT place an overheated pet in cold water. Misting them with cool water and placing wet towels on their neck, chest and limbs will aid in cooling during transport. Offer them ice chips but do NOT force them to drink.
If your pet experiences heat related distress, they need to be seen by your veterinarian, even if they seem to be okay, to rule out any unseen damage.
Things you can do to prevent heat related injuries are:
If you leave a pet in the car you need to check on them every few minutes – No Exceptions!When the temperature outside is 80 degrees, the temperature inside your car will reach 100 degrees in 15 minutes, and 120 degrees in 30 minutes, even with the windows open half-way. This can be fatal!
Once the outside temperature reaches 70, if your pet doesn’t need to go with you, the best place for them is probably at home.
Do not rely on the vehicle’s air conditioning, or if you do, you must continue to check on your pet every few minutes to ensure that the vehicle and AC are still running.
Make sure your pet always has access to fresh cool water, and if outside, shade. Be aware that not all dogs will move into the shade when they need to, so if they are outside you need to check on them on a regular basis.
Keep your pet well groomed, and if they have a long or dense coat and undercoat make sure you keep it mat free. Your pet’s guard hair, or outer coat, actually acts as an insulator which keeps them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We generally do not recommend shaving down an animal with a double coat unless there is a medical reason or the coat has become too severely matted.
If the sun can get to your pet’s skin, you will need to apply sunscreen on a regular basis or keep them out of the sun, to avoid sunburn.
Brachycephalic pets (those with short noses like Pugs and Persians) often have a more difficult time breathing in hot, humid weather because of their squashed noses, and are even more susceptible to heat related problems.
When you go for walks or enjoy other outdoor activities with your pets, make sure you bring along enough fresh cool water for them. Also, it helps to plan these activities for early morning or late evening when the temperatures are a bit cooler.
Make sure you pet does not overly exert themselves. Exercise is important, but too much activity when it’s hot and humid contributes to dehydration and can result in heat stroke. Like some people, not all pets know when to stop and rest.
Avoid walking your pet on asphalt. Asphalt absorbs heat and can become hot enough to burn the pads on your pets feet.
To keep ourselves cool, we often to keep windows open during the summer months. Make sure screens are secure so that your pet cannot escape or accidentally fall out of a window.
The summer months also bring more opportunities to play in the water for both people and pets. While it brings much joy, water also is a source of concern. Some things to consider:
Many dogs enjoy swimming, but some dogs don’t swim well and even the best swimmers can get tired. Life jackets for dogs can save lives.
If you have a pool, your dog needs to be supervised whenever they have access to the pool. You should take the time to train them how to safely enter and exit the pool from the shallow end.
Salt water can damage a dog’s coat, so after any ocean dips take the time to hose them down with fresh water.
Don’t let your pet stay wet! For some dogs, staying wet can lead to skin irritations, otherwise known as “hot spots.” These can be a source of discomfort and infection for your pet.
Bug Bites, Parasites and Pollen
Insects also enjoy the nice weather and if they are a pest to us they may be a pest to your dog and cat as well.
Black Flies, Maine’s own special nemesis, seem to love to feast on the tender underbellies of both dogs and cats. While some pets are oblivious, some react the same way we do, itching, scratching, and the equivalent of pet cursing. There are several insect repellents that are safe to use on pets that will help keep black fly and mosquito bites to a minimum. We sell and prefer Cedarcide Original, Cedarcide TickShield Extra Strength, and U-Tick-Me-Off. Before using an insect repellent for humans on your pet, read the label. Many products for humans, even kids, may not be safe for pets.
During the summer months our pets are at risk of getting heartworm from a mosquito bite. This parasitic worm is more of a threat to dogs, but even in cats it can be fatal. Discuss heartworm testing and prevention with your pet’s veterinarian at their annual exam.
Fleas become more of a problem in the summer months, particularly towards the end of summer. These small insects like to live, feed and breed on our pets. Feeding involves a bite to get a blood meal which causes the classic itch response we see in many pets. Some pets are more allergic to flea bites and just a couple of fleas can make their lives miserable; severe infestations can even cause anemia. The most effective and safest flea preventative products will be available from your veterinarian. These products are safe when used properly. Unfortunately, they are often unintentionally misused causing serious illness and even death in some pets. Talk to your veterinarian so you can make the best choice.
Ticks are becoming more and more of a problem in Maine. Because they can carry Lyme disease, as well as other tick-borne diseases, you should talk to your veterinarian about preventative products if your pet is likely to be in areas where they may pick up ticks. Just like with flea products, your veterinarian will be able to help you pick the best option for your pet. If you are looking for a product to use in your home, or yard, or on your dog as a repellent, check out Cedarcide Original and Cedarcide TickShield Extra Strength.
While rare, pets can have an allergic reaction to being stung by bees, wasps and the like. This can be more serious for brachycephalic pets because their breathing is already less than optimal. If you suspect such a reaction you need to get your pet to a veterinarian immediately.
Tree and grass pollens make my eyes water, nose run, and if the lawn has just been mowed, I itch all over. Some pets can also experience seasonal allergies. In addition to the aforementioned, another common manifestation of seasonal allergies is the continual licking and chewing of feet. If you see these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian and they can assist you in finding relief for your dog.
Lawn fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides and all sorts or other “…cides” are used routinely in our environment to kill something we don’t like. These poisons can all be toxic to our pets and since our animals can’t read little lawn signs or product labels, we need to watch out for them. Read product labels and keep your pet away from areas where these products are used. Remember – our pets aren’t wearing gloves or shoes but run around naked and then clean themselves by licking, increasing their exposure to these products.
While we usually think of mulch as pretty innocuous, cocoa mulch can be deadly if ingested and has an appetizing scent to some animals.
Summer is also a time for family gatherings, celebrations, and vacations. Depending on your pet’s temperament, these can range from good times to scary events. These simple rules will help you keep your pet safe during the festivities.
Put your dog in his crate with a bone or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times – when guests are arriving and leaving as well as when meals are being prepared and served. Make sure your guests know that they are to leave your pet alone in this situation.
Assign one adult to be in charge of each of the dogs, to watch for signs of stress and to protect the dog from unwanted attention from children. At the same time, assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler, with no other tasks assigned to them. Make sure that ALL interactions between pets and children are supervised by an adult.
Not every dog likes every person – ALWAYS let your dog decide if they want to meet someone new.
If you are quite certain your pet will not enjoy the increased activity due to the event, or if you will be more relaxed knowing your pet is in a safe, pleasant environment, consider boarding your pet the day and night of the event.
Fireworks, with their loud booms and bright flashes of light can be very frightening to pets. If they’re right in your backyard or your neighbor’s backyard they can be not only be frightening but can pose a danger to our pets. Keep your pets inside during any personal firework activity. If you go someplace to see the fireworks I would advise you to leave your pet at home in a safe quiet location. They’ll be glad you did.
Vacations & Traveling with Your Pet
If you travel with your pet, even just to camp, make sure they are wearing ID tags or have been micro-chipped.
Take your pet’s shot records with you as well as contact information for your regular veterinarian. If you are more than an hour’s drive from your veterinarian, make sure you have phone numbers of other veterinarians in the area where you are staying.
If you go hiking or camping with your pet, plan ahead. Make sure you have sufficient water and snacks for both of you, a first aid kit, as well as poop bags. Have your dog on a leash – it’s the law in Maine and is intended to keep your pet and others safe. If your dog is frightened by something and runs off, you might not get him back. Lastly, have a plan in mind for getting your dog to safety if they become sick or injured on the hike. If you are alone, weigh 115lbs and your dog weighs 120lbs, could you carry them to safety 5 miles away?
This post is based on an episode of The Woof Meow Show which aired on May 3rd, 2014. Don Hanson and Kate Dutra talk with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic about ticks and fleas and how to safely and effectively protect your pet from these parasites and the diseases they carry. You can listen to the show by <clicking here>. You can listen to a more recent show on this topic by <clicking here>.
If you are concerned that your pet may have any type of parasite, please see your veterinarian rather than trying to treat your pet on your own. Your veterinarian is trained to help choose the safest and most effective treatments for your pets and consider how the treatment of one pet may affect other people in your home as well as other pets. Products used to kill fleas and ticks are pesticides and can be toxic your pets and even to you and your family. People inappropriately using a product for treating fleas on their pets is the number one reason the National Animal Control Center receives calls.
Fleas and ticks are both external parasites that can affect our dogs, our cats and even us. In talking with many pet parents, it seems they believe fleas and ticks are only a “summer problem”. However, they are a potential problem any time it is warm enough for our pets to have “muddy paws.” Since most of our pets live indoors the vast majority of the time, fleas have the potential to be an issue 365 days per year.
Ticks live outdoors and once the ground is frozen they become dormant for the winter. As soon as the ground thaws ticks wake up, crawl up vegetation and wait for a victim to come by. They do not jump onto their victim; they wait until an animal brushes against them. The tick then begins crawling on the body, usually up towards the head, with a goal of biting and attaching to the animal so they can get a blood meal. When the ticks bite, they inject a numbing agent so the bite does not sting, they then inject an anti-coagulant so the bite bleeds as they lap up their meal. Ticks also regurgitate when eating, so whatever is in the ticks stomach often transfers to the bite and then into the victim’s bloodstream. After feeding, the tick will detach itself, fall off and look for a place to lay their eggs.
Ticks can carry several bacteria that cause diseases in animals and humans. Among these are Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Babezia and others. While many animals and people can fight off these infections, some cannot. The first three of these are included as part of the test when your pet is checked for heartworm. The Deer Tick is the primary vector for transmitting Lyme disease, but they are very tiny and hard to find on our pets or on ourselves. Fortunately, Deer Ticks are not prevalent everywhere. If you avoid areas where they live you may not need a tick preventative for your pet. For example, Dr. Cloutier indicated he does not use a tick preventative on his dog because he typically finds one tick or less on his dog per year. He does choose to use a preventative, however, when visiting family in Connecticut because he sees more ticks in one short visit there than he does the rest of the year in Maine. Whether or not your pet will acquire ticks depends on where they go and how they move through vegetation in any given area. Dr. Cloutier has clients with multiple dogs that often find ticks on one dog but none of the others.
There are ways you can minimize the chance of picking up ticks, therefore minimizing the chance of obtaining a tick-borne disease. At home, keep your yard mowed and fence off any areas where you let vegetation grow wild. While hiking, avoid areas with a high tick concentration and stay on the trail. Whether hiking or at home check your pets, and yourself, for ticks daily.
The tick obtains the organism that causes Lyme disease from the White-Footed Mouse. The tick then feeds on the deer, which becomes another vector for the disease. However, you must have a White-Footed Mouse to start the cycle and they typically stay within 30 minutes of large bodies of water. If you stay away from large bodies of water, you will be less at-risk for Lyme disease.
Lyme disease rarely affects cats, but it is possible. Because cats are such fastidious groomers, they often groom the tick off before it has had its blood meal and a chance to infect them.
When choosing a tick preventative, you need to balance the toxicity of the preventative along with its efficiency in killing ticks. In dogs, the preventatives often use two chemicals: one to kill the tick and the other to keep the tick crawling. Normally, ticks do not move much, which is why it is hard to deliver enough of the chemical to kill them. The second chemical is safe on dogs but is very unsafe for cats. Cat’s systems cannot clear this toxic chemical from their body. This is why it is absolutely essential to talk with your veterinarian when selecting tick preventatives for your pets.
Fleas are the other concern when it comes to external parasites. When topical products like FrontLine came out in the late 80s, everyone was excited about how effective it was at preventing fleas on pets. In Europe, it was originally labeled as being effective for three months. Currently, FrontLine only seems to be effective for about two weeks because the fleas have developed a resistance to the chemical.
Dr. Cloutier prefers to use a flea preventive that uses a growth inhibitor instead of a toxic pesticide. These products don’t kill the flea, but prevent them from reproducing. This product is administered to our dogs as an edible tablet they eat and for our cats is injected. When a flea feeds upon their blood, the flea consumes the growth inhibitor. The growth inhibitor prevents the flea from developing their endoskeleton and their eggs won’t hatch.
Some people worry about the growth inhibitor products because they are a chemical. Also, they are not just applied to our pet externally; they ingest the product or it is injected into them. The growth inhibitor prevents the flea from making chitin, a derivative of glucose. Mammals do not make chitin or have chitin in their systems; therefore, they are not affected by this chemical.
Fleas and ticks are very different creatures so, in some ways, it makes no sense to use the same product on both. Ticks live 99% of their life outside in the wild. They get on our pet for a couple of hours, drop off, and then go live in the external environment. The bulk of their life-cycle occurs in the wilderness which gives us very little opportunity to kill them. Fleas, on the other hand, love living in our homes and on our pets. Most of their life-cycle occurs on our pets.
It’s important to remember that most of the products we use to control fleas and ticks on our pets are toxic pesticides. They not only kill the fleas and ticks, but also have the potential to make our pets ill or even kill them if they are not used properly. Some of these products are only available from a veterinarian. Some can be ordered on-line or purchased in pet stores, as well as grocery stores and convenience stores. Too many people assume that since these products can be purchased so easily, they 1) must be effective and 2) must be safe for all applications. Unfortunately, neither is true.
A small number of these products, the growth inhibitors, are considered drugs. This means they must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These drugs are approved for use on a healthy animal, in a specific application, on a specific species, and at a specific dose per weight. This is also assuming it is the only product you are using. None of the other products are drugs, but are pesticides. This means that they are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When evaluating a pesticide, the EPA’s primary focus is on protecting the environment from chemicals. Typically these products are not tested as stringently as drugs, nor are they tested when used with other chemical products.
Evaluating which products will be the safest and most effective with your unique family of pets is something that your veterinarian is better equipped to do than anyone else. Your veterinarian knows your pet’s health history and, if you inform them, information about others in your home as well as environmental factors that need to be considered when selecting these products. For these reasons, we recommend that everyone talk to their veterinarian before using these products.
Many people choose to make decisions regarding flea and tick preventatives without their veterinarians input. This is why the number one call to the National Animal Poison Control Center is about reactions to flea products. The number of pets that become sick, or even die due to inappropriate use of flea and tick products in the US is alarmingly high. It is not because these products are bad, but because people use the product differently than intended. Either they don’t read the instructions, use too much of the product, use the product on an inappropriate species or use the product with another product that has a cumulative toxic effect. Many people are unaware that some of the products designed for use on dogs are very toxic to cats – at any dose.
The key things to remember are: fleas and tick are here to stay, they can be a big problem and can affect both humans as well as our pets, and the best source of information you have for helping you decide what products are best for your pet, and for you, is your veterinarian.
This page is based on an episode of The Woof Meow Show which aired on April 26th, 2014. Don Hanson and Kate Dutra talk with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic about hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, tapeworms and the scariest of all the internal parasites; heartworm. We discuss the importance of protecting your pet and your family from these parasites and the safest and most effective means of accomplishing this protection. You can listen to the show by <clicking here>. You can listen to a more recent show on this topic by <clicking here>.
If you are concerned that your pet may have any type of internal parasite, please see your veterinarian rather than trying to treat your pet on your own. Your veterinarian is trained to help choose the safest and most effective treatments for your pet and will take care to consider how the treatment of one pet may affect people in your home as well as other pets and other species. The number one reason the National Animal Poison Control Center receives calls is because people have inappropriately used a product for treating fleas on their pet.
Internal parasites that affect our pets may pose a significant problem for our four legged friends and can also be contagious to humans. There are two main types of parasites; those that live in the GI tract and those that live in other parts of the body. When considering worms in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats, we are usually referring to the following types; hook worms, round worms, whip worms, and tape worms. The other worm we will be discussing is the heartworm, which migrates through the body and into the heart.
While both dogs and cats may host the whipworm parasite, feline whipworms are uncommon in North America. Whipworms are typically contracted through the ingestion of contaminated matter (soil, food, water, feces and animal flesh) and can survive in the environment from months to years. Whipworms may cause significant damage to the intestinal tract resulting in bowel inflammation and bloody diarrhea, or it can also be asymptomatic. It is often associated with dehydration, anemia and weight loss in dogs.
Hookworms are very small and barely visible to the naked eye. They typically attach to the small intestine and feed on blood and tissue fluids from the host animal. The primary concern for hookworms is the development of anemia and weight loss. As with whipworms, hookworms are more prevalent in our canine companions and often result in more damage to our pet’s GI tract.
More commonly known but less harmful internal parasites are the tapeworms and roundworms. Tapeworms are the size of a grain of rice and are often spotted under our pet’s tail, near the anus or in their fecal matter. Several segments can come out together, in which case they look more like a piece of linguine with horizontal lines running through it. Our pets can get tapeworms two different ways; from ingesting prey that has tapeworms, such as a mouse, or from ingesting fleas, which carry the tapeworm egg. If our pet has fleas and they groom or bite at themselves, they may inadvertently ingest the fleas thus becoming infected with tapeworms. While it is rare for humans to get tapeworms, as it requires the ingestion of a flea, it does sometimes occur, primarily in children.
To continue with the food analogies, roundworms look similar to a piece of spaghetti. Tapeworms and roundworms don’t usually cause a lot of weight loss unless your pet is very infected; butt scooting may be a sign if your pet’s anus is irritated by tapeworms. The primary concern for roundworms is the possibility of stunting growth in puppies as the roundworms eat the partially digested food in the intestinal tract. Humans can contract roundworms if the eggs are inadvertently swallowed. Once an animal has a round worm in their body, some of the worms will move from the intestinal tract into muscle tissue where they remain dormant and inactive until the hormone levels change during pregnancy. The newly awakened worms may then transfer into the offspring through the placenta before they are even born or via the mammary glands during nursing.
All of these worms produce microscopic eggs that are shed in your pet’s feces in the litterbox or in your yard. Even if you cleanup after your pet religiously, there will still be some of these eggs in the environment in incredibly large numbers. Roundworms can shed up to 1,000,000 eggs per gram of feces. The FDA estimates that the average dog excretes 0.75lbs of feces per day. That’s 340 grams which means your dog may shed as many as 340 million roundworm eggs per day!
The fact is, in most cases if you took a shovel full of dirt from anywhere in your yard and analyzed it, you would find eggs for these parasitic worms. In almost all cases puppies and kittens are born with worms, which is why they are routinely wormed when you first get them.
Dr. Cloutier recommends that puppies be wormed at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 16 weeks of age to make sure that the worms are “wiped out” and so that your yard does not become contaminated with worm eggs. While no one intentionally ingests worm eggs, if you are playing in the yard, pick up a ball that lands in the grass, and then pickup and eat or drink something, there is an excellent chance you will ingest some worm eggs.
Statistics indicate that 1 in 7 people in the US will show an exposure to roundworms if they are tested. In poorer countries it is estimated that 50% of the population would test positive for roundworms. Since round worms can migrate through the body, they can also cause severe liver damage, blindness and other life threatening problems.
Intestinal worms in our pets are very easy to prevent, if we do it faithfully. A simple once a month treatment can prevent against all types of worms. Why do we need to do this every month? Because our dogs are outside every day, walking barefoot on the ground and picking up things on the ground with their mouth. They’re not only in our backyard, but we take them other places as well; the dog park, Bangor Forest, hiking trails and many other areas where other people take their dogs. All of those places carry parasites in the soil, and more so if some of the dogs that visit there are not on a monthly worm preventative. If you cat is an indoor only cat and you have no other pets, you may want to talk to your veterinarian and see if they believe a monthly worm preventative is necessary.
Heartworm falls into the category of worms that exist outside of the GI tract and is a scary internal parasite. Heartworm can be transmitted across species, including but not limited to dogs, cats and humans. It is transmitted via a mosquito that has become infected when they bit wildlife or a pet that is already infected. An infected mosquito typically deposits about four microfilariae (worm larva) when they bite. Statistically one of those four worms will make it to the heart of our pet where it will grow to be an adult worm, growing to about a foot long and living in the right side of our pet’s heart. The migration to the heart and development into adult heartworms typically takes about six months.
If your pet’s heart has both male and female worms, they will start to reproduce, which then means they can infect mosquitoes that bite them and then those mosquitoes can go on and infect other animals. As the worm population grows it can cause problems in the heart and pulmonary arteries; killing the worms to get rid of them is not a simple matter because of where they are located. The dead worms will pass into our pet’s lungs where they can cause additional problems. While heartworm is usually treatable, it can take several months.
We are seeing more and more heartworm in Maine. In certain areas of the southern United States it is estimated that fifty percent of all animals not on a preventative have heartworm. We currently don’t have that high of an incidence in Maine because many pet parents do use a preventative but also because our climate limits the amount of time mosquitoes are active. However, as well-meaning people and rescue groups bring more dogs up from the South, we bring some dogs into Maine with heartworm.
If no dogs in a neighborhood are carrying heartworm, the percentage of mosquitoes in that community carrying heartworm will be less than 1%. However, if there is a dog that is positive for heartworm in your neighbor’s yard, research suggests that 60% of the mosquitoes in that yard will be carrying heartworm and just a couple houses away, 20% to 30% of the mosquitoes will be carrying heartworm. This is very much a community problem.
If you are adopting a pet from the South, you want to make sure that they are tested for heartworm before they are transported to Maine and again after they have been in Maine for 6 months, and then annually. This is necessary, because there is a period of time where a dog can test negative for heartworm but still have it.
Treating heartworm is a serious issue. It requires a very toxic, arsenic type compound, and your pet needs to be in otherwise good health before being treated. It takes a couple of months to treat and then you must keep your dog quiet for a month during the treatment. It is much easier to prevent heartworm than treat it, so why not just use a preventative?
Heartworm can be prevented by a monthly treatment for both dogs and cats, often with the same treatment you give them for intestinal worms. In Maine, it was typically recommended that a heartworm treatment be given monthly for six months. However, some of the heartworms have become resistant to the preventatives, so manufacturers have had to change their labels to read “Use for six months after the last possible exposure” which effectively means, to be most effective we should be using a heartworm preventative 12 months out of the year even in our cold, frigid state. The heartworm preventatives are very safe, very effective and easy to do. One is even listed as safe for pregnant and lactating animals which suggests a very high degree of safety.
Even indoor cats require protection from heartworm. There is a certain species of mosquito that prefers to get into our homes and also tends to bite cats and carry heartworm. There was a year at the Veazie Veterinary Clinic, probably about ten years ago, where they actually saw more indoor cats test positive for heartworm than dogs.
It should be noted that in the South, in the Mississippi River Valley, there is a type of heartworm that is completely resistant to the heartworm preventatives. Fortunately, it has not moved beyond that area yet.
Although not common, heartworm can be transmitted to people. Since humans are not natural hosts for the heartworm, the heartworm do not fully develop to the full size worms as they do in our pets, but they can pass to the lung and are sometimes mistaken for lung cancer.