Saturday, March 12, 2011

Animal time

Well, I started this blog to talk about my life as a wife, mom, and vet. So I guess it's about time to talk about the work part of my life. I've been working at animal hospitals for about almost 14 years. I started out working kennels and worked my way up to a technician assistant, finally going to vet school and graduating in 2006. I've always loved animals, and I really enjoy working with them and their owners in order to keep them as healthy and happy as possible.

Spring is coming (or may already be here for those of us in the south), and with it comes flea, tick, and mosquito season. I cannot stress enough the need for proper parasite prevention in our pets.

Heartworms are worms that live in the blood vessels between the heart and the lungs. In advanced cases the worms can actually plug the vessels and decrease or stop blood flow. Even in mild cases they cause damage to the vessel walls. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, so even pets who never leave their house or yard are at risk. Heartworms are easy to prevent with monthly medication. Treatment costs around $500, but prevention only costs about $10-12 a month. In warmer states (like mine), we often have days when the temperature rises above 60 degrees even in winter. Because of this I recommend using heartworm prevention every month, just in case the mosquitoes don't know it's supposed to be winter.

Fleas and ticks are just plain nasty! Ticks crawl up blades of grass and just wait for someone to come by so they can hitch a ride. Then they move up the leg and find a nice warm spot to dig in and feed. Many ticks can carry diseases, like lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fleas like to set up shop inside our homes. The adult flea spends all of its time on your dog or cat. The females lay eggs, which immediately fall off and land wherever your pet is standing/sitting. Then the larvae hatches from the eggs, and they crawl around in whatever carpet, bedding, etc the eggs landed on. Soon these larvae form cocoons where they develop into an adult flea. This part of the life cycle can last for months. They don't hatch out until the conditions are right - temperature, carbon dioxide, and movement are all triggers for them. They are also protected from pesticides while in the cocoon. This long life cycle means that you should never wait until you start seeing fleas to start using flea prevention. Once you're seeing the adults, they've already started laying eggs. Once fleas set up house in your house, it can take 3 months or more to kill all of them, since you have to wait for all the cocoons to hatch before you can get them all. Again, if you live in the south you should probably use flea and tick prevention all year round. If you live somewhere where there is snow on the ground all year, you may be able to get away without using it during the winter. Just remember, it's still warm in your house. If you haven't killed all the fleas that live there, they'll just keep multiplying all winter long.

So, to sum up, please remember to treat your cats and dogs with flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. It's much easier (and cheaper) to prevent these things than to treat your animals once they've been infested/infected. Always buy your prevention from your veterinarian. We keep up to date on the newest research and best products for our areas of the country. Sometimes prevention you can buy at other stores can cause skin irritation or even seizures. When you buy medication over the internet you can't always be sure that it was stored and shipped at the proper temperatures. Because of this many companies won't stand behind their product unless it was sold by a veterinarian.

Keep your pets pest free!

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