Pet Identification

As you can imagine, one of the toughest things about being a vet is saying “no” to stray pets. We get a lot of calls about pets found or lost each week at Winterset Veterinary Center.  These calls are extremely frustrating for those that have lost or found the pet and also for our practice.  Madison County does not have a shelter that accepts dogs and cats that have been found or people that have decided they can no longer care for the pet and need a place to surrender them to.  People find animals along the roads of Madison County.  Being concerned for their safety, they pick them up and make a call to ask where they can drop them off for safe keeping until owners can be found.  I am sorry to say these people have very few options for these dogs and cats.  This presents a lot of issues for all parties involved.   Therefore, I want to make some suggestions to all pet owners that will possibly ensure your pet, if lost, can get home as quickly as possible.

First of all, we as veterinarians cannot tell you why your pet ran away.  Pets do crazy things sometimes.  Even if they have never run and they are 8 years of age they can still decide on the spur of the moment to run away.   Having a pet neutered or spayed can help reduce the incidence of running but they run for other reasons as well.   Maybe they have found an alternative food source on an adventure or they have found other animals or people to play with.  Maybe they are trying to follow you and find where you go every day.  Perhaps they have a fear of noises or thunderstorms.  Maybe they took off after a wild animal or bird.  Perhaps they are just following their nose and tracking who knows what.  Whatever the reason is, you must be prepared for it.

fullsizerender-1IDENTIFICATION TAGS AND COLLARS

Every pet should have a tag or collar with the owners name and phone number at the very least.  A rabies tag is not appropriate identification.  A rabies tag is proof that a vaccination was given at some time.  It does have a clinic name where the vaccination was given but often when dogs or cats are found it is after business hours and there is no way to track that information until the clinic opens for business again.   Large dogs often lose dangling tags, so consider a collar with your information embroidered on the collar or a tag that rivets to the collar.  A company that does a great job on collars is www.orvis.com.  They have a large number of collar options and the embroidery is very easy to read even from a distance.  I once got a phone call from a service man who had come to our home to deliver something.  I asked him how he got my number and he said from your dog’s collar.   I have used these collars since 2007 and have never been disappointed.  They even have collars that reflect light to help keep pets safer at night.

PHOTOS OF YOUR PET(S)

It is important to have a picture of your pet that would be easy to access in the event your pet has been lost.  We have found that social media has been a great way to alert people to a lost or found pet.  The picture should be age appropriate and close enough to see markings on the pet.  If you find a pet and can take a picture and post it, that is extremely helpful.  Attempt to see if it is a male or female.  Telling where the pet was found can be beneficial.  If you find a pet along the road and are traveling out of the area it is best not to take that pet with you.  The owners will not be looking for their pet in another city or state.  There is a website called www.iowapetalert.com where pets can be listed as lost or found hoping to reunite them with their owners.

MICROCHIPS

This is a must do for all pets.  It is not that expensive and when a pet is microchipped the reunion happens much more quickly.  As of today, the chips do not have a tracking device on them.  Maybe in the future the technology will allow this.   So how does the microchip work?

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As you can see, there is not much difference between the microchip needle (on the right) and a vaccination needle (on the left).

Many microchips today are 15 digit universal chips.  They are placed under the skin at the shoulder blade with a syringe very similar to a vaccination.  It can be done in the exam room with the pet awake.  Many chips have non-migration properties today.  This is extremely important.  Earlier chips moved under the skin and therefore made it difficult to find them when scanned.  The universal chips can be read in any country around the world.   If your pet has a microchip, make certain you know the microchip number and manufacturer.

Most companies encourage the pet owner to register the microchip number.   At Winterset Veterinary Center we purchase pre-registered microchips.  This allows us to enter all the contact information and set up an account with Home Again the same day we place the chip. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) started a website called www.petmicrochiplookup.org.  If the company your microchip came from does not cooperate with this website, I would encourage you to call them and ask why.  A microchip is of little use to you if your contact information is not available quickly to the person who found your pet.  The above website allows you to put the microchip number into a search box and they will then give you a number to call where more information can be found.  Your personal information and that of your pet is protected.  It is also important to know that the microchip information cannot be put into anyone else’s name without your signature.  This is important in the case of a theft.  Most microchips do come with a tag to put on the pet indicating they have a microchip, but as with any tag there are times it is missing or unable to be read.  That is why it is so important to scan any pet that has been found to make certain they do not have a chip.  We have heard some amazing stories of pets reunited with their owners even after many years have passed or miles have been traveled.

If you know your pets microchip number but do not know if you have registered it or not, here is a test you can do to find out.  Go to the above website and type in your microchip number.   It then will give you a number to call for further information.  When you make that phone call you should discover that your personal information is connected to your pet and that all the information is correct.  If that is not the case, you need to ask how to update the information so in the event your pet is lost there will be fewer delays.  Most pets adopted from shelters are now microchipped.  Many breeders microchip puppies prior selling them.

Losing a pet is one of the most devastating situations for a family.  Doing these three things can help you be reunited with your pet in the event they leave home unexpectedly, because it can happen to you!

Nutritional Facts and Myths

IMG_2759Pet nutrition is a topic often discussed between family, friends, and coworkers. With all the choices there is bound to be confusion when it comes to pet foods and how to know what is best suited for your special friend.

As a veterinarian, I spend time discussing diets with pet owners. I do not want to be indicating that I have all the answers. For every answer there are always more questions. Yet, I feel some basic information can be helpful when seeking a perfect diet for your pet. I would like to dispel some of the myths and reiterate several of the facts surrounding pet nutrition.

  1. Active dogs need high protein. This is a FALSE statement. Fats provide more energy than proteins. Proteins do provide energy, but fats offer 2.25x more energy per gram. Over a long period of time a high protein diet has a negative effect on the kidneys and liver function.
  2. “ALL LIFE STAGES” FOODS = PUPPY/KITTEN FOOD. This is a TRUE statement. Therefore it is not wise to feed this diet to dogs or cats that are not in an active growth stage or state of pregnancy.
  3. Corn and/or grains are bad. This is a FALSE statement. Of all the myths, this is by far the most common one I hear. The marketing has been huge at changing how pet foods are made. Corn offers 16 grams of protein in each cup of corn. It is a good source of vitamins and fatty acids. The carbohydrates are highly digestible. Less than 3% of dogs have food allergies to corn and 1% of cats.
  4. Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in pets. TRUE. Some Irish Setters have shown a wheat sensitive enteropathy and it is seen in the first 6 months of their life. Gluten is not a problem for a majority of pets.
  5. “Raw” diets are acceptable diets for dogs and cats. FALSE. The issues with raw diets are many. We see mineral and vitamin imbalances. Often people alter the recipe and thereby do not keep it consistent from day to day. Excessive proteins are the norm with these diets. Raw diets have shown to decrease the life span of our pets.
  6. Dogs and Cats are carnivores. FALSE. Cats are carnivores but dogs are omnivores. This indicates dogs can eat and remain healthy with both plant and animal diets. Cats on the other hand have certain nutrients that are only available from animal sources required in their diet. Over time if cats are not offered these nutrients serious health issues will develop. That is why dogs should eat dog food and cats should eat cat food
  7. Dogs and cats eat 1/2 of their body weight per month. TRUE. This is a helpful formula if you are attempting to purchase food and wondering how long will this bag of food last.
  8. Dry kibble will promote better dental health. FALSE. Before you call to say that this statement is true. Look at the numerous studies that indicate the location of plaque and tarter(calculus) is at the gum surface. Therefore any chewing of dry kibble would have a difficult time successfully removing plaque. That is like saying you eating dry foods will promote better dental health for yourself. We know that only brushing can have a sustained positive effect on oral health when done daily.   Now having said this, there is a website from Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) that lists products that meet standards of plaque and tarter reduction in pets: VOHC Accepted Product List. Feel free to research this further. I am still working to change my talking points on this one.
  9. All AAFCO labels are the same. FALSE. Look for the AFFCO label that indicates: Animal feeding tests using AFFCO procedures substantiate that this product provides complete and balanced nutrition for the maintenance of adult dogs. This means it has been fed to dogs for a minimum of 26nweeks. The wording may vary but it should indicate that it has been fed to dogs verses saying it has been formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AFFCO. There is a big difference.
  10. These are the only MYTH’s about pet foods. FALSE. It would take pages and pages to list them all. I just wanted to focus on a few that seem to surface more in our practice. Marketing of pet foods has really over run the nutritional side of pet diets. Ingredient labels and guaranteed analysis are difficult to compare from company to company. Lack of Kcal/cup listed on bags makes it hard to know if this diet will be fewer calories than your last diet. Do the words Natural, Organic, Human Grade, Holistic, etc even mean anything? How does ingredient splitting mislead consumers? Are words such as Lite or low calorie or weight care regulated? Maybe another blog we can answer some of these questions.

Recently I attended a conference on nutrition and the speaker placed this slide in front of us and asked if we would feed this diet to our pet.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein (min) 37%        Crude Fiber(max) 8%

Crude Fat(min) 16%                 Moisture(max) 12%

Of course we were all suspecting something fishy since our whole morning had been spent discussing myths about pet foods. Here is a list of ingredients that made up that Guaranteed analysis:

1 pair of leather boots, 4 quarts of crank case oil,

1 pail of crushed coal, 1 quart of water

blend together and extrude into 12 mm round kibbles

My point for sharing this is to make certain you realize that labels and guaranteed analysis can be very misleading. You cannot compare bags of food based on what information is given to you on the package. You cannot assume that if you spend more money on this food then it must be better. I wish it was that easy. Be cautious about what you read on the internet about pet foods. Ask your veterinarian for help in selecting a diet that will allow your pet to live a longer healthier life. Nutrition is important in keeping our pets in our homes for more years and hopefully with a better quality of life.

FLEAS: Prevention is Key

FLEAS, FLEAS, AND MORE FLEAS……that is a frequent complaint this time of year. It seems that every year a new group of unsuspecting victims fall prey to this dreaded infestation. I do mean infestation! The flea life cycle is a mystery to many people. When we explain the process to rid your home and pets of this parasite, people are shocked by the time and money required to treat these FLEAS!

The flea life cycle thrives in warm and humid weather. Many think late summer is when you need to think about flea treatment. That is not correct. Fleas hatch year round if conditions are ideal. Further South where there is not a winter season, they fight fleas year round. Therefore, all snowbirds must do year round flea and tick preventatives on their pets. If you board, groom, train, and or visit dog parks with your pets during the cold season of the year you should do year round flea and tick prevention. Fleas can live on animals even during the winter months and if your pet comes in contact with a flea infested animal and is not on prevention…. guess who’s going to have some new pesky creatures?

Fleas are very hardy and have 4 stages of their life cycle. Only the adult flea lives on the animal. They usually will not live on humans unless the infestation is so heavy they bite for a blood meal. Beauticians have reported finding fleas in human hair. Others have indicated they have been bitten when sitting in their chairs or walking through their homes.

dog-1559746_640The adult flea is brown and quite small. They jump and scurry through the hair. They do not fly. It is extremely difficult to see them in small numbers since they attempt to move away from your hands as you part the hair looking for them. Each adult flea can lay more than 2000 eggs in its lifetime. Each egg rolls off the pet and/or animal wherever the animal goes. If it is a small cat or dog and they go under the bed, you will have flea eggs under the bed. If they go behind the chair or under the table, you will have flea eggs in those areas as well.   If they sleep in your bed eggs will be in your sheets and/or on the comforters. The eggs hatch and a small larva emerges. This larva feeds on flea dirt and the crumbs in your carpets and cushions. After a few days it becomes a pupa and undergoes a transformation into the adult flea within the protective casing of the pupa.   Now this is where it gets extremely frustrating. NOTHING kills the pupa. This protective casing is resistant to most chemicals that we have to fog or bomb or spray our homes. Our topical flea products do nothing to this stage of the flea cycle.   When winter comes and we turn on our heat, this stage of the cycle goes dormant. It waits until the warm and humid weather returns before choosing to hatch and start the cycle over again. THEREFORE many people get a false sense of security thinking they have the problem under control but it is still there lurking in the home waiting for warmer weather.

The reason we see so many fleas this time of year is because fleas have been laying eggs in your environment since April. The numbers reach a peak based on how many eggs have been laid.   We get our hot humid weather making conditions ideal and our pets become infested by the large number of fleas emerging.

So now your are most likely disgusted and asking yourself HOW DO WE BATTLE THIS INFESTATION? Start flea prevention as soon as warm weather returns. Some years that is March. Also, if you have had a flea problem on your pets be sure to do year round prevention for the first year making certain when a pupa hatches, the adult flea feeds, and it dies before infesting your home again. Dogs and cats share fleas so indoor only cats are at risk especially if living in a home with dogs. Never use dog flea products on cats since toxic reactions can occur. If you have flea problems washing as many blankets, comforters, rugs, etc., can eliminate numbers of eggs, larva, and pupa in the home. Vacuuming can reduce numbers as well but make certain you empty your bag or canister since the fleas have been known to escape. Foggers and sprays can help reduce numbers too, but remember they cannot get under beds, behind couches, in closets, etc., where many pets leave eggs behind.

So the best method to battle flea infestations is to keep every pet on flea and tick prevention. There are multiple products with a large difference in price. Recently many generics have come available. I do not have the space to discuss the pros and cons of all the flea products on the market but I will share information about the newest products on the market. There are now oral flavored flea and tick preventatives. The two top contenders are Bravecto and Nexgard. Bravecto is a soft chewable treat that is good for 3 months. Nexgard is a chewable treat given monthly. Both have a good palatability rating and have been given to a large number of dogs in the last 2 years since they came available. If someone has fleas, I make a point to prepare them for 3 months of flea issues. Knowing the environment is infested it can take that long before no new fleas will emerge. One chewable Bravecto will cover those 3 months.

If you have been using one product and fleas are still present, talk to your veterinarian. A new type of prevention may be recommended. Resistance has been talked about in areas around the country and maybe it is time to try a different product on your pets. There are products out there that are very inexpensive that I would avoid. They never worked when they first came out and they still do not work today.

To wrap this FLEA BLOG up…..PREVENTION IS THE KEY! Protect your pets always and you will not be disappointed. Do not go the “cheap” route. Treat all pets including your indoor only cats. Have a fun fall, free of fleas!

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