Heartworms are a parasite that reside in the heart of mammals. Dogs are the most frequent hosts, although cats and occasionally other species can become infected. Heartworm larvae are transmitted from an infected animal to a susceptible animal by mosquitoes. The larvae take several months to grow and move from the site of the bite to taking up residence in the heart. We have autopsied dogs with heartworm, and it really looks like spaghetti when the heart is opened up. Not a pretty site, and obviously fatal for the dog. There is a treatment available to be used on dogs and cats already infected with the disease, but it is currently in tight supply and is doled out case by case by the manufacturer. The easiest way to keep your pet safe from this disease is monthly prevention with an approved product. There are several products on the market, most with an active ingredient of Ivermectin. In Collies or collie type breeds, a different active ingredient is recommended due to occasional sensitivities to Ivermectins. Monthly prevention is easy- a small chewable tablet once a month- and is effective at preventing this serious and debilitating disease. Testing for heartworm is recommended prior to starting the preventative, as giving the medication to a dog already infected can have serious side effects.
Dental disease is a significant problem in our companion animals. It can take a subtle toll on your pets energy and well-being, or be a silent killer. Tartar develops on teeth after a certain amount of time with no brushing or other abrasive activity in the mouth. Brushing your pets teeth helps, as do certain types of food designed to hold together and scrape the teeth as they are chewed versus breaking apart easily. Chewing on certain types of chewies can do the same thing to dog's teeth. When tartar is present on the teeth, there are bacteria that live in the tartar. The combination of the tartar and bacteria irritate the animal's gums, and form pockets under the gum tissue. Irritated gums tend to be red and inflamed, and this allows bacteria to get into the blood stream. Bacteria from the mouth that travel in the blood stream will seed out on heart valves, in the kidneys, and in the liver. In each of these locations the bacteria cause significant problems. On the heart valves little colonies of bacteria grow into larger colonies, until they interfere with the heart valve closing properly. This causes valvular insufficiency, which leads to secondary heart disease. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in dogs. Bacteria that land in the kidneys cause parts of the kidney to die off, thus reducing the amount of normally functioning cells. This results in impaired renal (kidney) function, which can then lead to kidney failure. Kidney disease and failure is the leading cause of death in older cats. Bacteria that make it to the liver can cause small abscesses and adversely effect the way the liver is able to handle other stresses and do it's everyday jobs like removing toxins from the bloodstream. So an animal's mouth can be a great indicator of overall health, and also show us where there is room to make improvements. Teeth cleaning is something routine in our lives, and should be done for our pets as well to help maintain overall health.