The Real Story with Rabies

So I am going to start this post off slightly different from the others. First let me ask how many of you have seen a zombie movie? Of course if you’re into the gore then you must have thought it was great right? Let’s assume that the gore isn’t your thing. Your first time seeing a zombie film completely creeped you out! Basically a person gets a random virus that affects their brain and fills them with a murderous rage. The virus then makes them attack and kill/infect other people. It’s easy not to be afraid of something when you know it’s just a movie. But what if I told you that the virus that infected the zombies was a real virus. Then would you be scared?

What is Rabies?

So let me re-phrase by saying there is a virus similar to that of the zombie virus. Sorry to all my monster movie fans but I am referring to the rabies virus. Some elements of the rabies virus have actually been used as inspiration for the zombie and Dracula movies. You may have even heard of the rabies virus if you have either owned a pet or have seen the movie Cujo. Rabies has actually been around for quite some time. Some of the first cases were seen around 1930 BC but the vaccine itself was not invented until 1885. Wow! imagine just how many cases occurred between that time period. Here we are in 2019 and not that many people are well-informed about the virus. So what exactly is rabies and how can we stay protected?

Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system and causes brain swelling. Without immediate treatment, the virus can be fatal. Rabies is spread through saliva mostly through bites, but licking, scratching and open wounds are also possibilities. Eyes, nose and mouth are gateways as well.

How does this affect us?

Rabies is generally contracted through bites by a rabies carrier. Common animals that carry the disease are bats, raccoons and foxes to name a few. If you see any of these guys nearby, it is best to steer clear especially if they are acting abnormal. Now if they are coming onto your property or in your neighborhood, I would suggest calling your area’s animal control to have them removed. It is not wise to remove the animal yourself. The best thing is to not put yourself in a situation where you can be bitten.

While we are on the subject of bites and preventing them, how does this tie into pet ownership? Of course we want to keep our pets from being bitten by a possible rabid animal but if it does happen some states may require a 6-month quarantine for your pet. Why? Well in some cases it can take 8 weeks or longer for rabies symptoms to show in an animal. 6 months without any symptoms is a good indicator that your pet is n the clear. Now as the owner, it would be your responsibility to pay any costs associated with the quarantine. Boarding your pet for a short time can be okay but over a 6-month period, this can get really expensive. The only other option is to have your pet put down. Since neither option A nor B sound pleasant, I prefer to stick with option C. Keep a close eye on your pets when playing near wooded areas and keep them up to date on their rabies vaccine.

Now let’s say the shoe was on the other foot and your pet was not bitten but was the biter. Whether you realize it or not, your pet actually falls into the category of a rabies vector. So you may have guessed that if your pet does bite, some states require another quarantine. Oh don’t worry, this one is only 10 days. What’s the difference? So in order to pass the virus to another animal or human, it has to have gone through what is called the “incubation period” and already attacked the brain. This is the point where the known symptoms of foaming at the mouth and aggression are seen. In a nutshell, it is easier to look for symptoms in a 10-day time frame from an animal that has bitten because they can only pass the disease after the virus has affected their brain. The animal will either start showing symptoms or die within the 10 days. For an animal that was bitten, it takes longer for symptoms to show. The only accurate way to test for rabies is to submit brain tissue.

How can we stay protected?

As of right now there is no cure for rabies. There are preventative vaccines that you can receive if you work around animals and there is a high chance of an animal bite occurring. There are also vaccines you receive once you have been bitten. If you are exposed to rabies, you should get to the doctor pronto and get a vaccine. There is usually 3 or 4 rabies vaccines that you will receive in a series. For pet owners, most states require that your pet is vaccinated against rabies each year. A vet can issue a 3-year vaccine if you go on or before the date of expiration of the previous rabies shot.

So let’s see if we can sum this up. We have a deadly virus that can be passed from animals to humans. There is no cure for the virus and the time that it takes for you to start showing symptoms is anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks to 6 months maybe more. Not many people are informed on the dangers, so let’s think of how many unvaccinated animals are out there! Scared yet? Now that you understand what the rabies virus is and why it is so important, make sure you keep your pets up to date on vaccines and away from wildlife. If you are unsure whether your pet is required to have the vaccine, definitely check with your vet. You can also check out more detailed information about rabies here at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html also here at https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/rabies. Let’s do what we can to keep ourselves safe and prevent our own real life monster movie. Please feel free to drop a line in the comment box below.

How to deal with Heartworms

What are heartworms?

So most people are aware that animals are capable of getting worms. Usually these worms are parasites that move in and make homes in our pets’ bellies. Heartworms, as you might have guessed, attack the heart and lungs. These parasites can affect both dogs and cats but for the purposes of this post, I will be exclusively speaking on canine heartworms.

Heartworms do not develop when a dog ingests a parasite, but when a larva is injected through a mosquito bite. The larva develops into an adult which eats away at the heart. What does this mean for our pets? If heartworm disease goes untreated, eventually the dog will die. Now before I send someone into a state of panic, let me clarify the process. Once the larva is successfully placed, it does not become an adult overnight nor in a couple of weeks. In fact, it takes about 6 months for a larva to become an adult worm.

How can we prevent a dog from getting heartworms?

So since mosquitoes are the culprits behind planting the larva in our dogs, and we can’t keep mosquitoes from biting them, we have to turn to medicine to help us out. As I have mentioned in the previous post, all dogs need reoccurring vaccines to keep them healthy. One in particular that I had mentioned was the heartworm preventative medicine. This is administered as an oral medication; Ivermectin being a common brand. From my experience, Ivermectin is usually paired with another common dewormer, Pyrantel. Since both are monthly orals needed, it is easier to keep them on the same schedule. You can start your pups on the preventative at around 8 weeks and they should be tested at 6 months.

There are different brands of oral pills or chews your vet can prescribe. When I first started Jack with vaccines, He was taking Trifexis. This brand protected against, heartworms, intestinal parasites as well as fleas. The only thing was, it was hard for me to get Jack to take his pill. Now I use Heartguard. It only has Pyrantel and Ivermectin, but it comes in a chew form so my dogs think they are getting a special treat each month. Your vet can offer more information as to which kind of medicine may work best for your pet.

So how does the preventative work? As I have mentioned, it is almost Impossible to keep mosquitoes from biting your dog. Once you give your dog its monthly dose of the preventative, the medicine will kill off any larvae that are present. The preventative is only designed to kill larvae, not adult worms. If you miss a dose, you can always call your vet to get back on track. Just make sure you do not double dose your pet to make up for the dose that was missed. Heartworm preventative is a helpful medicine but too much at a time can be very harmful to your pet. Think of it like taking way too much Aspirin or Tylenol at one time to get rid of a headache. Probably not the best idea.

The Positives of Being Positive

Now I know what you are probably going to say. What can be positive about having a heartworm positive dog? Well let’s start with the fact that you would be giving an animal a chance at a good life. If you choose the route of adoption, you may notice that there are plenty of dogs that are overlooked due to their heartworm status. By adopting a heartworm positive dog, you give this dog a new beginning to a great life. Another positive thing is that heartworms can be cured with treatment. There are actually 3 different methods of treating heartworms. Fast kill, slow kill and in more severe cases, surgery.

The fast kill method consists of treating the animal with a round of antibiotics, followed by 2 or 3 injections. After the injections, the animal must rest for about 6 weeks only going out for potty breaks. The slow kill method does not use the injections. According the American Heartworm Society, the slow kill method can take over a year to cure a dog. I have only heard of this method being used in certain circumstances. The surgical method is of course only recommended in extreme cases of heartworm disease. For more detailed information on heartworm disease you can refer to www.heartwormsociety.org.

Where do we go from here?

To sum everything up. Heartworm disease is very serious and easily contracted through mosquitoes. It is easily prevented through monthly doses of preventative which you can purchase in single doses, 6 or 12 month doses. Depending on the mosquito prevalence in your area, you may not need to give your dog the preventative during certain seasons. Definitely consult with your vet before making that decision. Although heartworm disease is curable, the treatment can be very strenuous for your pet and very expensive for you as an owner. Preventing heartworm disease is much more cost effective than treating. Since I live in an area where spring through early fall turns into Mosquitoville, I keep both dogs on preventative year round. I hope this article inspired you to keep protecting your pets! Be sure to drop a comment below for any questions.

Don’t be Scared of Pet Healthcare

 

Shots Shots Shots!!!

So before we get into training your pet, I feel that it is good to talk about the importance of shots. No I am not talking about the kind you take to toast to your new puppy. I mean vaccines. All pets will need them. Just like infants and young children need several to help build their immune system and to keep them from getting sick, the same goes for your new companion. I know to some it may seem silly to compare a pet to a child however, vetting can be expensive if a dog gets sick or hurt. A lot of how we keep our pets healthy relies on preventative care. For instance, Canine Parvovirus is a common virus that infects and kills unvaccinated puppies. Although it can be treated, it is very expensive and depending on the severity of the virus, the pup may not survive if it does not receive immediate care.

Because their immune systems are not as strong as adult dogs, your vet may recommend boosters of the DA2PP (or other variations) vaccine to protect your puppy from several strands of viruses. If you are adopting an adult dog and are unsure of the vaccine history, your vet may also want to booster as well just as a precaution. Now just because your pup has had its first round of shots, does not mean you’re done. Monthly flea tick treatment, dewormer and heartworm preventative are necessary to keep your pet healthy as well.

The vaccine that people may be most familiar with is the rabies vaccine. This is particularly important out of all the vaccines because it protects against the rabies virus. Rabies is a deadly virus that can be passed to humans. Due to the seriousness of the virus, most if not all states in the US require that your pet is vaccinated against rabies. It may be helpful to call your local Animal Control or check with the ordinances in your area if you are unsure of the regulations. If your pet already has the vaccine, make sure to keep a copy of the rabies certificate on hand in case you need it. The tags are not sufficient proof that your animal is vaccinated. If you are looking to have your pet groomed or boarded, the paper certificate is what you need.

Let’s Talk About Vets Baby!

One of the scariest words for some pet owners is “vet” either because they automatically think “expensive” or that the vet may find something wrong with your pet. I must admit that at first I had this same mentality when I got Jack. Then I discovered that I have options. When Jack came home with me, he was 8 months old. I decided to go with a Banfield plan because they were well-known and once again I had no idea what I was doing. I had it in my head that every other vet meant paying an arm and a leg for service. What I did appreciate about the plan was that it included everything. Since my dog was still young and needed a series of shots, for me the plan was cost effective. I was also clueless when it came to understanding the vaccines he was getting. I was not well-informed about heartworm disease and knew nothing about the preventative he was getting. I only knew it doubled as a flea medicine. I appreciated the reminders for shots and that the plan came with the heartworm preventative so there really was not a way I could forget to give him his pill. I liked the experience I had with the vet because it opened opportunities for questions. I also suffered from first time dog mom syndrome where everything about Jack scared me. If he coughed or sneezed too much I was concerned and if he threw up at all, I freaked out. Until I became more aware of what was normal for my dog, the Banfield plan worked for me because vet visits were included.

By the time I thought about getting a second dog, I had gained more knowledge about vetting options from just asking my peers. Instead of going through Banfield to get Jack neutered, I chose to go through a clinic. As time went on and I realized that I did not need to take Jack to the vet as often as I thought, I decided to look at other options. Instead of paying a monthly fee, I decided to just pay for the vet visits and services when I needed them. Now at the time it worked out and seemed like a good idea; however, when I got dog number 2 I assumed that because Jack was young and had no major issues, Piggy would be the same. The Worst mistake as a pet owner. Since Piggy is a Pitbull, she came with ear issues, skin issues and possible allergies which Jack did not have. This goes back to a previous post where I say it is important to research your breed so you know what issues may arise.

Reassurance About Pet Insurrance

While we are on the subject of pet healthcare, what if you do have moments where services ARE expensive? Depending on the vet, you may not have the option to pay in installments. From my experience, all payments are due in full. As we all know with our four legged friends, accidents can happen and as they get older serious health issues can occur. Now as I am still new to the topic of pet insurance, I myself do not have it but it is something I have considered. I am not sure if many people are aware of the option for pet insurance. Once I looked into I was actually amazed by all the options out there! I did a simple search for top 10 pet insurance options for dogs and I found this list

Pets Best

ASPCA

Pet Plan

Embrace

Trupanion

Pet First

So why is pet insurance needed? Okay let me throw out a scenario. Your new pet is playing outside and somehow breaks a leg. How much is the surgery going to cost to fix it? Do you have it all at once? Scenario 2: Let’s say your pet is playing and swallows a piece of string. At the time you are thinking “It will eventually come out right?” Something so simple as an animal swallowing a toy or a piece of string could do some damage. These surgeries are not always simple nor are they cost effective. By having insurance it may save you a lot in the long run. Now am I saying that every pet owner should go out and get pet insurance? Absolutely NOT. I am only presenting options in case an emergency situation does occur.