Category Archives: Medical Advice

Heartworm Disease

Spring is in the air! The weather is getting warmer and we are starting to head towards those summer months. With the warmer weather comes the flowers blooming, pools being opened, longer days outside, summer vacations, and also those annoying bugs come back from hiding away for the winter. Mosquitos are one of those bugs. Possibly even the most annoying of the insects to come out in the warmer months. April is National Heartworm Prevention Month, so this blog is to inform you of all of the basics of Heartworm in dogs and cats. Many people still only think that heartworm is a concern in the southern U.S. which sadly is incorrect. Heartworm is found in all 50 states and that is why EVERYONE that owns furry friends should be knowledgeable about the basics of heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease is a serious and even fatal disease that can affect dogs and cats. This disease is caused by worms that infect the blood and live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels. This infection can cause heart failure, lung disease and cause other organs in the body to be compromised.

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquito bites. Mosquitos get infected by biting animals that have been infected with heartworm and currently have the baby worms or microfilaria living in their blood stream. When that infected mosquito bites another non infected animal the baby worms enter that animal by the bite wound.

The life cycle of heartworms simplified: Mosquito bites infected animal. Baby worms that are now in the mosquito develop into infective larvae stage over 10-14 days. Infected mosquito bites non-infected animal. Larvae are transmitted to non-infected animal through mosquito bite wound. The larvae then live in the tissues for around 2 months while developing. The adult worm is now living in bloodstream and heart for the next 4-5 months while it reaches full maturity. Mature worms now live in heart and bloodstream and can start producing larvae that can now infect another mosquito. Mosquito bites the now infected animal and the life cycle repeats.

Heartworms can live for 5-7 years in dog and 2-3 years in cats. Once an animal is infected with heartworm it can take months for symptoms to appear.

heartworm disease
Canine symptoms you may see could be the following:

    • mild persistent cough

    • reluctance to exercise

    • fatigue after mild activity

    • decreased appetite

    • weight loss

    • swollen abdomen(extra fluid)-severe cases

    • caval syndrome-blockage of blood flow-severe cases

heartworm disease
Feline symptoms may include:

    • coughing

    • asthma-like attacks

    • periodic vomiting

    • loss of appetite

    • weight loss

    • difficulty walking/fainting

    • fluid accumulation in abdomen

Diagnosis is made by a blood test looking for heartworm proteins. Cats are harder to diagnose and usually require a special blood test and even ultrasound/x-rays.

While it is true that the southern states are more known for heartworm infections solely because the temperature is warmer longer periods of the year. Warm weather = mosquitos. Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in every state of the US. The incidence for heartworm has grown dramatically in the last 5-10 years.

Current recommendations is year round heartworm prevention for all dogs and cats in all states. There are many options for preventives. The ones that we use at AHDC are-Heartgard (dog), Interceptor (dog), and Revolution (cats/dogs). These preventives also protect against certain intestinal parasites. Revolution also protects against fleas, and some ticks in dogs.

Testing should be done for heartworm disease every year, or before restarting prevention if a dose was missed. Even if your pet is on a preventative year round, testing should still be done to be sure of product effectiveness of prevention. Testing can be done at the vet office with a small amount of blood and results are available in as little as ten minutes! Some of the companies that sell preventatives will pay for all or a portion of treatment cost if proven that animal is on year-long prevention with no missed doses and has yearly testing documented in their medical records. Some of the medications can be harmful to animals that have active heartworm infections, which is why testing is required if doses are missed.

Treatment for heartworm is very expensive and required to prevent death from large worm burdens. Sadly there is no treatment approved in cats-the only way is prevention! Treatment can range in cost from $1200-$2000, and includes bloodwork, x-rays, multiple injections, oral medications, and many, many vet visits. When comparing cost of treatment vs cost of prevention there should be no question! Prevention is usually less than $300 for a whole year of protection. Prevention is the way to go!

As you can see it’s a little difficult to condense all the information of heartworm disease into a short blog, but all the information is extremely important and we want everyone to be fully educated! If interested in more information on preventions we have available, please contact our office to help your pet be the healthiest they can be!

Pet Food and Nutrition

By Dr. Zajac

photo_weightIf you have a pet, you have probably noticed that there is a lot of overwhelming information about pet food and nutrition out there. It seems we are constantly bombarded by TV ads, internet sites and pet store promotions all claiming to have the best and healthiest foods for our pets. We also can get differing information from our neighbors, family members and friends, groomers, trainers, and pet store employees. If you feel confused or overwhelmed by what to feed your pet, here are a few simple tips to make that stroll down the pet food aisle less challenging.

First, determine into which “life stage” category your pet falls. This label can be found on pet food products in the fine print (the important stuff is always the fine print). It is determined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and is usually found under the ingredient panel of the food. This feeding guideline is established by AAFCO and helps to minimize the risk of malnutrition or oversupplementation if followed. Life stages define subsets of pets based on their nutritional needs at certain stages in their lives and include “growth/gestation/lactation,” “maintenance,” and “all life stages.” Puppies, kittens, pregnant and lactating pets would fall into the first category, adult dogs would be in the second, and the third group claims that it can be fed to any pet at any time. Watch out for the “all life stages” label. For a food to be labeled as such, it must meet the nutritional requirements of the life stage that needs the MOST nutrition (calories, fat, protein, etc.). That is the first category, the growing pets and those that are pregnant or producing milk. This means that if your pet food is labeled as an adult food but the AAFCO statement claims it is sufficient for “all life stages,” you are actually feeding a puppy food (or kitten food if it is for cats). This may be why some of our pets seem to not eat a lot of food, but they are overweight and can’t lose weight even when we decrease their food. Feeding an all life stage food to an older pet with kidney disease or heart disease may be detrimental to their health. These foods may be too high in protein, salt and phosphorous for diseased organs to process.

Second, beware of labels that claim the food is “holistic,” “grain-free,” or “hypo-allergenic.” There is no legal definition for the term “holistic” when it comes to food. Any company can put that label on their food, but there are no actual requirements necessary for the food to meet. It just may mean a higher price tag. Some foods that are labeled as “grain free” or “hypo-allergenic” may in fact not have grain, but if your pet is allergic to a certain meat protein, it won’t help itchy skin or gastrointestinal discomfort. Also, there may be grain contaminants in the food because the previous batch of food may have contained grain (similar to how we have warnings on some of our foods that alert us that some products were made in the same factory where there are peanuts and other foods that may cause allergic reactions).

Third, it is important to consider the nutrition in the food, not just the ingredients. Animals can get essential amino acids, proteins and trace minerals from plant sources as well as meat sources, just as vegetarians can have a complete and balanced diet while avoiding meat. Even if the first ingredient on the label is not meat, it doesn’t mean that the food is nutritionally deficient.

If you have questions about pet food labels or what life stage food is appropriate for your pet, ask your veterinarian for more information. It may also be helpful to bring an empty bag or can of the food to your vet. There are so many out there that we sometimes aren’t familiar with every brand!

Asthma and Allergies in Pets


As if we need another reason to be aware of me, May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Many of my social media friends may not realize this but I suffer from environmental allergies. This is why my coat is sometimes less than perfect. While other sufferers may be embarrassed by this fact, I want to use my position as an AHDC blogger to spread awareness of allergies in my dog and cat friends. Our allergy symptoms are often different than those you experience. Below I listed some common symptoms you may see in your allergic pets:

  • Red staining to feet and fur (saliva stains red)
  • Licking or chewing feet
  • General itchiness
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Sneezing with clear nasal discharge
  • Clear eye discharge

I’m also going to share the spotlight today with my friend, Duck, who has been diagnosed with asthma. Duck gets treated regularly with an inhaler to help keep his symptoms at bay.

Asthma is a much more serious illness and needs to be addressed quickly. Here are signs to watch for if you are concerned about asthma:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Trouble breathing
  • Blue lips or gums
  • Open mouth breathing

If you notice any of these symptoms in your 4-legged kids, please call my friends at AHDC.

National Pet Diabetes Month

November is National Pet Diabetes Month. Are your pets at risk? The likelihood of your cat or dog developing diabetes is anywhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 500 and experts say those numbers are increasing. Diabetes mellitus, the clinical name for “sugar diabetes,” is a disease that affects glucose in your pet’s blood and is caused by a shortage of insulin or when the body can’t process insulin properly. Diabetes in dogs is usually type 1 while diabetes in cats is usually type 2 but can progress to type 1. The food that your pet eats is broken down into small components that the body can use. One of the components, carbohydrates, is converted into sugar or glucose. If there is too little insulin or the insulin cannot be processed correctly, then the glucose is not able to enter the cells and provide energy. Because the cells cannot absorb glucose, a diabetic pet may always want to eat but still look malnourished. If your pet exhibits the following symptoms, he or she may have diabetes: -Excessive drinking or urination, -increased appetite (early stages) or loss of appetite (late stages), -weight loss, -lethargy or weakness, and -vomiting or other intestinal problems. If your pet has these symptoms then let us or your veterinarian know so we can get started on creating a plan for your and your pet. Although diabetes is not curable, it can be managed with daily insulin injections and changes in diet (and exercise for dogs). Oral medications have shown to be not particularly helpful. Successful management of your pet’s diabetes means that he or she can live a happy and healthy life. Making sure that your pet is eating a proper diet, gets regular exercise, and maintains a healthy weight can be a big help in preventing diabetes. For more information about pet diabetes, visit

What causes pet periodontal disease?

What causes pet periodontal disease? Pet periodontal disease starts when bacteria form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. These bacteria can then travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys and liver.

Veterinary Dentistry: Dental Radiographs (x-rays)

Dental radiographs are crucial for a thorough assessment of oral health. Dental radiographs show the parts of the teeth “below the gumline,” which is where most dental disease is found. The roots and the bone surrounding the roots are able to be seen and assessed. In order to have dental radiographs performed, a pet must be anesthetized and a digital sensor is placed in the mouth and the xray machine is placed close to the patient’s face in order to get the radiographic image. Here is an example of what a normal dental radiograph looks like. 1 All too often, teeth seem fine on the surface but the surrounding bone or root of the teeth could still have serious problems which need to be addressed. Possible problems include tooth root abscesses, root fractures, weakened or loss of jawbone, dissolving roots and cancer. On the flipside, teeth can look very diseased on the surface with heavy tartar and staining but the roots and surrounding bone are healthy. Once a veterinarian has looked at all the teeth in the patient and on the radiographs, only then can they decide which teeth need to be removed or even which teeth do not need to be removed. Here are some pictures that show problems that could not be seen without radiographs: 2 Broken jaw 3 Loss of bone around tooth 4 Tooth root abscess 5.tif This tooth is only supposed to have 2 roots, the one in the middle is an anomaly and knowing it is there would help with extraction if the tooth ever needed to be removed. In addition to finding problems with teeth, veterinarians are able to remove teeth faster and safer when they know what the problem actually is which means less time for your pet to be under anesthesia and less pain afterward surgery. AHDC is now able to provide your pet with dental radiographs. We recommended for all pets, even ones with no obvious problems above the gumline.

Deer Ticks

Bad things come in small packages
The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), often referred to as the black-legged tick, is small and unassuming. But don’t be fooled by appearances—this tick can transmit Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, two very serious and often-diagnosed diseases. These are also zoonotic diseases, which means they can infect people as well as pets. The deer tick is commonly found in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and upper midwestern regions of the United States.

IMPORTANT RECALL: Virbac issues expanded recall for Iverhart Plus Flavored Chewables

Virbac has expanded its voluntary recall of Iverhart Plus Flavored Chewables following its initial recall notice in April 2013. Virbac directs consumers who have questions about the recall to contact Virbac Technical Services at 1-800-338-3659, ext. 3052. According to PetMD, additional specific lots of the heartworm preventive are being recalled because they might not fully protect dogs in the upper third of each weight range. PetMD cited a letter distributed by Virbac saying that 14 lots of Iverhart Plus Flavored Chewables were below Ivermectin potency levels prior to their expiration. Another 17 lots are being recalled out of caution even though they remain within specification. Please help us share this information. To read more of the details, go to: