My Flea Confession (and what you can learn from it)

Guys, I have a confession to make.

A few months ago, I was sitting on the couch with my fiancé watching TV. One of my cats, Thursday, hopped up in my lap. We have tortoise shell cats that are extremely sassy (we call it their “tortitude,”), and so it is a special occasion if they want attention. I seized the day and began petting her, only to become horrified a few seconds later.

MY CAT HAD FLEAS!!!

“How could this happen?” I found myself thinking, “My cats only stay indoors, I have hard wood floors, and both of my dogs are on flea prevention!”

I immediately started laughing. I had just used the same excuses that my clients rattle off day in and day out, and I definitely knew better. I had been telling my clients for two years that they needed to have all of their animals on flea prevention- even the ones that are “indoor only.” And now, I realized that I wasn’t practicing what I preach!

It was humbling, to say the least.

Luckily, I immediately applied Bravecto for cats (a topical feline flea prevention that lasts for an entire THREE months), and the problem went away. I am extra careful now to make sure that I give the torties their flea and heartworm prevention every month, at the same time I give my dogs theirs. I hope to never be in a state of ‘flea-nial” ever again!

FLEA-NIAL: The state of denial a pet owner is in when they say “my pet doesn’t have fleas” (and their pet definitely has fleas).

Now, you can learn from my mistake. Here are a few reasons why ALL mammals in the household need to be on flea prevention:

  1. You can track fleas, flea eggs, or other parasites into your home. Fleas can come into your house on you or your shoes. Don’t worry- they won’t parasitize humans, our body temperature is just a little too cold for them.
  2. Your dogs- even if they are on flea prevention- can track parasites into your home. Many preventions need the flea to bite the pet in order to kill the flea. This means that a flea could “hitch a ride” on an indoor/outdoor pet, come in, jump off, and colonize your indoor-only pets.
  3. It only takes two fleas to start a family. Listen, kids. When a mommy flea and a daddy flea love each other very much… But, seriously. A female flea can lay over 500 eggs in her lifetime. And those fleas can lay 500 eggs. Two fleas can easily start an infestation.
  4. Dormant stages of the flea’s life cycle can live in the environment for MONTHS. I usually tell my clients that it takes at least 4 months to get rid of an active flea infestation in your home. That is because certain life stages of the flea, especially the pupal stage, can live in your environment for up to 4 months. Because of this, you must use your products continuously and year round to prevent reinfection of your pet.
  5. Fleas can survive the winter. Especially if they are indoors, on an inside only pet, or laying dormant in your home. I see almost as many animals suffering from flea infestation in the winter as I do in the summer. I suspect that this is because owners are not as diligent as applying flea prevention in the winter time.

fleas.jpg

Picture of the flea life cycle: borrowed from Eli Lilly and Trifexis.

Now, hopefully you have learned from my stupidity and now know the reasons WHY you need flea prevention, even in indoor pets. If you liked this post, please comment, share, or join the conversation on twitter @KatieHoganDVM

You won’t want to miss my post on Thursday- we will be talking about which flea preventions work well, which work some of the time, which are a waste of money, and which can actually be harmful to your four-legged friend.

Question for readers: Have you ever had a problem with fleas in your home? How did you finally manage to get ahead of the problem (or are you still struggling with it)!?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in my professional veterinary career, to apply to my own pets. I also work at a veterinary clinic that sells flea and heartworm prevention. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers and thier animals. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Four BIG Reasons why you need to spay your female dog

Whoohoo! We’ve made it to the fourth and final installment of the #VeterinaryMythBusters mini-series.

If you’ve been with me since the first post, thanks for following along! But, if you’re new here, I encourage you to check out posts one, two, and three of this blog series before moving on to this conclusion.

Today, we will be debunking the myth that spaying a female dog will make her more likely to get sick. In fact, the opposite is quite true. Spaying of female dogs can prevent serious and life-threatening health conditions for her. It also helps keep down the pet population and may help her have more birthdays to celebrate.


Here are four BIG reasons why you need to spay your dog:

Spaying and neutering dogs has been associated with longer lifespans

Most animal lovers agree- the greatest issue with owning pets is that they are never able to be with us long enough. We all want more time with our pets, don’t we? A study by the University of Georgia published in 2013 found a strong correlation between sterilization (spaying and neutering) of dogs and longer lifespans. Dogs that were sterilized were less likely to die from trauma and infectious disease.

Female dogs have a reduced rate of mammary cancer if they are spayed before their second heat cycle

Mammary cancer is the most common type of cancer in female dogs, and is virtually eliminated if the dog is spayed before her first heat cycle. One in four (25%) of un-spayed female dogs will develop mammary cancer in their life, of which 50-60% will have metastatic cancer that could potentially spread to other organs and be fatal. Only one in 2,000 (0.05%) dogs that were spayed before their first heat cycle will develop mammary cancer. There is also a significantly decreased risk (1 in about 12, or 8%) if the female is spayed before her second heat cycle. But, after the third heat cycle this health benefit diminishes.

Pyometra is a deadly infection

One of the most common emergencies that I see in practice is a condition called pyometra. The term “pyometra” means “puss-filled-uterus,” and is about as pleasant as it sounds. Dog with pyometra are often very sick and may have vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, listlessness, increased urination and thirst, and vaginal discharge. However, some dogs with pyometra may have very mild symptoms and still have a raging infection inside their body. The statistical risk of pyometra has not been significantly studied in the USA, but is believed to be 15% at 4 years of age, and 24% at ten years of age for un-spayed females. If your dog gets a pyometra, they will require costly and emergent life-saving surgery to remove the infected organ before it can burst or before your pet goes septic.

Spaying your dog helps reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancies 

This one is a no-brainer, and it has been the big reason why spaying and neutering is (thankfully) so widely accepted in the USA compared to other countries. 5 to 8 million animals are euthanized each year in shelters in the US. I realize that most pet parents won’t let their female dogs run loose or have access to an adult male, but accidents happen! I’ve seen my fair share of “oops” pregnancies in dogs and cats alike, and it has proven to me that “life always finds a way.” If you’re not thinking about breeding your dog (and I would strongly urge you to consider the ethical points of breeding animals in an overpopulated society before doing so), please spay her so that one day we won’t live in a world where shelter euthanasia is the leading cause of death in companion animals.


Before we close, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that there are some negatives to spaying your dog. However, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. The chart belowSpay risks and benefits, taken from this article, shows the benefits and negatives of a spay (ovariohysterectomy) in female dogs. From that, we can see that we prevent more clinically and statistically significant problems if we spay female dogs.

Still have questions? I encourage you to discuss this article with your pet’s veterinarian to determine which course of action is best for her. Resources and additional references can be found below. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this last installment of the Veterinary Myth Busters mini-series!

Question for readers: Has your pet had a health crisis that could have been prevented by a spay?

Resources and References
https://www.avma.org/News/Journals/Collections/Documents/javma_231_11_1665.pdf
https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/spaying-or-neutering-your-dog-faq#1
https://www.vin.com/apputil/image/handler.ashx?docid=5800951
https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/mammary-tumors
Photo by Dhyamis Kleber from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-gray-long-sleeve-top-and-red-pants-sitting-beside-tree-and-white-medium-coated-dog-681833/

 

Veterinary Myth Busters: Yes, Your Pet DOES Need Heartworm Prevention

Hello, friends and pet owners!

Welcome to the second episode of a mini-blog series I am hosting called Veterinary Myth Busters. Today, we will be talking about heartworm prevention, and how most veterinarians in the US recommend it for all dogs, monthly, year-round.

I have this conversation at least once a day:

“My niece has been around dogs all of her life, and she told me that she’s never had a problem with heartworms and that I don’t need to spend money on heartworm prevention. Do I really need to be giving my dog that pill every month?”

The short answer: Yes, unless you feel like gambling. 

This subject is a big matter of debate. Between veterinarians, dog people, and snake oil salesmen who spout “holistic” remedies and preventions, it can be hard for well-meaning pet owners to decipher the truth. Different areas of the country have different levels or risk, but heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 of the United States. So, the truth is: no matter what state you live in, heartworm disease is a real threat to your pet, and you can prevent it for less than $10 per month.

heartworm incidence map

“Well, I don’t need heartworm prevention because…”

These excuses are endless (and infuriating)! The pattern and spread of heartworm disease is highly variable and unpredictable based on a myriad of factors. I’ve seen indoor dogs, outdoor dogs, small breed dogs, large breed dogs, pets with rich owners, pets with poor owners, and even cats come up positive for heartworm infection. The fact is- weird, improbable things sometimes happen. If you have an indoor pet, he is unlikely to get heartworm disease, but he is not immune. Heartworm disease is easy to prevent, and difficult to treat and predict. Don’t gamble with it!

“But I don’t want to put toxic chemicals in my pet’s body…”

Heartworm prevention medications are safe, effective, and extensively tested before they hit the market. These products have been licensed by the FDA and have been through testing as rigorous as the testing human medications must go through. Health problems due to heartworm disease are much more likely to cause illness in your dog. Once an animal gets heartworm disease, the treatment is a course of expensive and painful injections. These injections must be given deep in the epaxial (back) muscles, and can come with significant side effects. Personally, I would much rather give my dog a meat flavored chewable (that she enjoys taking) once a month than subject her to a series of three painful injections, over two months of “cage rest,” and possible life-long side effects from having heartworm disease.

“But, Doc, I can’t remember to give a pill every month!”

You’re in luck! There is even an injection licensed to prevent heartworm disease. One injection, given by your vet, under the skin of your dog every 6 months is all that is needed. If you’re dog doesn’t like taking pills, there are even topical products which prevent heartworms (as well as intestinal worms and fleas).

In summary, there is really no good excuse for your pet to not be up to date on heartworm prevention! The benefits definitely trump the risks, as heartworms (much like the mosquitoes that harbor them) SUCK! 

Thanks for reading this blog post. Join us on Sunday, where we will be busting myths and talking about all the reasons why YOU need to spay your dog.

Want to get in on the conversation? Tweet @KatieHoganDVM or comment below:

Have you ever had an experience with heartworm disease?

Do you feel like your veterinarian has thoroughly explained WHY your dog needs heartworm prevention? 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. However, I am an employee of Noah’s Ark Animal Clinics, which sells heartworm test and prevention products to pet owners. Regardless, I strive to only recommend medical services and products whose indications are evidence based and that are necessary to ensure the health of your pet. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Resources for pet owners: