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Frequently Asked Questions -
Preventative Medicine

Why does my pup need to be dewormed?
Should I deworm my adult dogs and cats?
What is heartworm disease? Do we have it here?
Should my cat be on heartworm preventative?
What is a microchip?
My pet always wears a collar with identification tags.  Why would he need a microchip?

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Why does my pup need to be dewormed?
Somewhere around 80% of pups and kittens are born with roundworms and/or hookworms. These intestinal parasites typically are dormant (and not susceptible to dewormers) until they detect pregnancy hormones, at which point they re-activate and enter the pups before they're born via the bloodstream or after birth via the milk.
Early infestations such as those found in young animals may not be detectable because the worms themselves are too young to shed the eggs that we look for in feces to diagnose the infestation.

Hookworm larvae can burrow into human skin and cause an intensely itchy rash known as cutaneous larval migrans. Roundworm larvae can migrate within the human body in various tissues including the eye and brain, causing inflammation and disease known as visceral larval migrans. Both of these problems are seen most commonly in young children. In rare cases, serious permanent damage to the eye or brain can result.

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Should I deworm my adult dogs and cats?
Routine deworming is not recommended in our area as it may speed up drug resistance amongst the parasites. Heartworm preventatives are effective against the most common intestinal parasites and are an essential part of a preventative health care plan. Annual fecal checks are used for monitoring for other parasites and are highly recommended.

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What is heartworm disease? Do we have it here?
Heartworm disease is caused by an organism called Dirofilaria immitis, which lives as an adult in the chambers of the heart and the great veins adjacent to the heart. As many as 200 adult worms have been found in a single heart. The adults produce millions of microscopic larvae known as microfilaria, which circulate in the dog’s bloodstream until picked up by a mosquito feeding on the dog. After a required period of development in the mosquito they can infect the next dog that the mosquito feeds on. It takes about 6 months for these larvae to develop into mature heartworms in the heart.

Heartworm preventatives such as Interceptor kill the younger stages of these larvae, but killing the millions of microfilaria in the bloodstream of a dog with adult heartworms can trigger a very dangerous allergic reaction, therefore it is imperative that any dog older than 6 months of age be tested before starting on heartworm preventatives.

Heartworm disease is present in our area, and though it is still relatively uncommon, the number of cases seems to be on the rise. Treatment for adult heartworm disease, while generally successful, carries a number of significant risks. The drug used can itself cause problems, and the dying worms can cause blockages in blood vessels in the lungs. For these reasons, prevention is far preferable to treatment.

Prevention is accomplished by use of heartworm preventatives such as Heartgard, Interceptor or Revolution, used on a monthly basis all year long. Re-testing for adult heartworms is recommended at the end of the first year of life and every third year thereafter.

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Should my cat be on heartworm preventative?
In areas such as the Southeastern United States where heartworm disease is very prevalent in dogs, as many as 30% of cats have been found to be harboring heartworms. In our drier climate where heartworms are less plentiful there have been very few cases of heartworm disease in cats. Because treatment for heartworm disease is very difficult and dangerous in cats, prevention should be considered for those cats most at risk, particularly cats that travel.

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What is a microchip?
A microchip is a tiny transponder, about the size of a grain of rice, which is encoded with a unique identification number.  It is used for permanent identification.

The microchip is inserted by an injection, usually along the spine between the pet’s shoulder blades. The procedure is fast, safe, and appears to be relatively pain-free in most pets. The chips are usually inserted without incident even in the tiniest kittens and puppies. The microchip can be implanted at any time without anesthetic.

Once the chip is inserted, the pet is scanned with a microchip scanner which detects the specific electronic code embedded in the chip, and displays the identification number on the scanner’s screen. This ensures that the chip is reading properly. It is now a permanent and tamperproof method that cannot be lost.

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My pet always wears a collar with identification tags.  Why would he need a microchip?
Unfortunately, collars and tags can break, be lost or be removed.  When the tags are new, they are easy to read.  However, as they get old and worn, it can become challenging to make out all the information that is on them. The same problem occurs with tattoos.

However, a microchip cannot be easily misread, and the identification number is tamper-proof. The information about the pet and owner is usually readily retrievable. Most, if not all, humane societies and animal shelters now have microchip readers, and routinely scan all stray and injured animals.   

 

 

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