Your Important Pet Care Questions Answered
Heartworms are parasites that are found in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels of infected dogs. Heartworm disease can be fatal to dogs because it can cause the heart and major blood vessels to clog, reducing blood flow to vital organs. Dogs infected with heartworms may exhibit a dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness, nervousness, listlessness and loss of stamina, especially during or after exercise. Heartworm disease is often treatable with medication, if the disease is not too advanced.
Because heartworms are transmitted through mosquitoes, dogs in warm weather climates like Phoenix can contract heartworms all year long. Luckily, heartworm disease is easy to diagnose and prevent. We recommend that your dog receive a yearly heartworm blood test as part of its regular wellness exam and that you keep your dog on heartworm preventive medication all year long.
The first is Valley fever, which is caused by a fungus in the soil in the Sonoran Desert. Dogs breathe in the fungus spores while digging in the dirt, sniffing at rodent burrows and from dust storms. While most dogs in Phoenix have had some exposure to valley fever, only a few get sick. Symptoms are quite variable and include fever, coughing, loss of appetite, lameness, seizures and weight loss. Diagnosis is made by blood test, x-rays and physical examination. Valley fever can be treated in most cases, and affected dogs often require long-term anti-fungal medication, which is given by mouth. Cats rarely get valley fever.
Ehrlichiosis or “Tick Fever” is spread to pets by ticks and is prevalent in Arizona. It can cause acute symptoms such as fever, listlessness and loss of appetite, or chronic symptoms like lameness, nose bleeds and neurologic disease. Thankfully, ehrlichiosis is easy to diagnose and treat if caught early. We include an ehrlichiosis test in our annual heart worm test.
Fecal tests can tell us whether or not your pet has intestinal parasites. While intestinal parasites aren’t usually fatal in adult dogs and cats, they can compromise your pet’s health. And, they can be spread to you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some intestinal parasites from dogs and cats may be transmitted to humans, especially small children and immune-suppressed individuals, and may have the potential to cause serious health problems, ranging from skin rashes to intestinal diseases, blindness, seizures encephalitis and meningitis.
That’s why we recommend doing a fecal flotation test as part of your pet’s yearly wellness exam. This fast and simple test will help us spot the eggs of mature parasites that may be living in your pet’s intestines. Then, we can treat the pet with medication, ensuring its health and yours.
A “health panel” is a group of diagnostic tests that will give us insight into your pet’s overall health and help us spot potential problems early on, when they are more easily treated. A health panel often includes blood tests, a urinalysis and x-rays.
We recommend that regular health panels be performed on senior pets because as pets age, they are more likely to face serious health problems. By spotting problems early, we can often treat or slow the progression of the problem, prolonging the pet’s life and wellbeing.
We also recommend doing a baseline health panel on new pets, especially those you have acquired as adults, to use as a comparison for future panels as the pet ages.
Pets need regular dental checks and cleanings in order to head off potential health problems that can shorten their lives. During our yearly wellness exams, we’ll look over your pet’s teeth and, if necessary, recommend professional cleaning, polishing or extractions, all of which are performed in our hospital by our medical team. To prevent dental health problems, we also carry an array of oral hygiene products.
It’s essential for pets to receive IV fluids when they are under anesthesia in order to maintain their blood pressure and aid with their circulation. IV fluids help maintain kidney function during surgery and remove toxins that may build up during surgery.
When a pet goes under anesthesia, its body experiences a certain amount of physical stress. If the pet is healthy, this presents no problem. But if the pet has undiagnosed underlying health problems, being under anesthesia could adversely affect its health. Pre-operative blood tests can help us identify potential health problems, like early stages of organ disease and dysfunction. If a problem is uncovered, we can confer with you to either address the situation prior to surgery or proceed with surgery taking necessary precautions to adjust for the health concerns.
We perform surgery every week day morning. When surgery is recommended for your pet, you will schedule the procedure with our office. Prior to surgery, our staff will discuss the surgical procedure with you and give you pre-operative instructions. We ask that you make an appointment to bring your pet to our hospital between 7:45 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the morning of surgery to fill out our pre-operative checklist and talk with one of our doctors.
When your pet is in recovery, we will call you with surgery results and set up a time to release your pet to your care. When you pick up your pet, we will meet with you to discuss your pet’s condition and receive post-operative care instructions. Because we want to make sure things go smoothly when you get your pet back home, one of our doctors will give you a call after surgery to answer questions.
Unless you plan to breed your pet, we strongly recommend that you have it spayed/neutered, for a number of reasons. One is to promote the health of your pet. Spaying/neutering protects your pet from diseases that affect the reproductive organs. Another reason is to improve your pet’s behavior. Pets that are spayed/neutered are often calmer and exhibit less aggressive and negative behavior, like urine marking. Finally, having your pet spayed/neutered will ensure it does not unexpectedly reproduce, adding to the number of unwanted pets in our community. The animal shelters are full of pets looking for a good home, many of which are there because owners failed to have their pets spayed/neutered.
At Shea Animal Hospital, our doctors approach pet wellness, diagnosis and treatment through a variety of paths, including traditional western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Depending upon the reason for your visit, traditional western examinations take about 20 minutes. But Chinese medicine examinations are more in-depth consultations that can last an hour or longer, depending upon your pet’s needs. During a Chinese medicine examination, Dr. Garthee conducts a thorough physical exam, takes a complete history of your pet’s health and habits and consults with you on various alternative and traditional treatment options you may wish to pursue.
In order to protect them against life-threatening diseases, puppies and kittens need to receive a series of vaccinations, beginning when they are 8 weeks old and continuing every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old.
Puppy Vaccination Schedule:
Distemper/Parainfluenza/Parvo/Canine Hepatitis combination shot: Given at each examination during the vaccination cycle
Bordatella shot: Given twice during the vaccination cycle
Rabies shot: Given once, at age 16 weeks
Kitten Vaccination Schedule:
Feline distemper shot: Given at each examination during the vaccination cycle
Feline leukemia shot: Given twice during the vaccination cycle
Rabies shot: Given once, at age 12 to 16 weeks
It’s important that dogs and cats receive regular vaccinations to safeguard their health against potentially life-threatening illnesses.
Dog Vaccinations Schedule:
Bordatella shot: yearly
Rabies shot: every 3 years
Distemper shot: every 3 years (for dogs 3 years and older)
Cat Vaccination Schedule:
Feline leukemia shot: yearly
Rabies shot: yearly (We recommend the newest rabies vaccination, which contain no mercury or other additives. This new, safer vaccine must be given yearly.)
Distemper shot: every three years (for cats 3 years and older)