Environmental Flea Control

Posted by Aaron

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The most important concept to get in flea control is that 90-95% of the total flea population is made up of juveniles. Only the last 5-10% are the adults that we see! Adult fleas are obligate to stay on their host and rarely get off. The flea life cycles begins when a mommy flea and a daddy flea love each other very much, and they may decide to make a few hundred baby fleas.

The female will take blood meals on the host and use that energy to produce tons of eggs that she lays on the host. The eggs dry up a bit and fall off the pet and into the environment.

Eggs hatch and little larva crawl out and start feeding on the little bits of dirt, dander, fungi, etc in the carpet base, couch cushions, topsoil, or pet bedding that they happen to be hatched into.
After a couple of weeks, the larva spin this cool cocoon and begin to pupate. Pupae usually hatch out in another 10-14 days but can remain dormant in this state for a very, very long time.

There are two general classes of chemicals to use for environmental flea control. Adulticides (permethryn, Advantage, Frontline) all kill adults. The larva and eggs require something different. There are compounds called Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) that will halt the development of these stages. The egg then dries up and goes away. The most common IGRs seen are methoprene (Precor) and pyriproxifen (Nylar). As a general rule, IGRs aren't very stable in the environment, so companies have had to develop delivery systems that help protect the chemical from light so that they will last long enough. Most preparations of Nylar for use in the home list a 3 to 4 month duration of action.

Don't waste your time putting down tons of chemicals on the lawn assuming that there are hoards of adult fleas waiting to invade. There aren't. The adulticide stuff you put down washes away and the flea larva continue to develop. The story is a bit different in the house where you have the opportunity to use a product that may bind to the carpet fibers and stick around for a while. A newly hatched adult may come in contact with the stuff and promptly die.

Apply a product including an IGR. I have seen one outdoor product that contains Nylar. There are several indoor products designed for use in carpets/furniture. Other IGR products are going to be designed to use ON the pet (Frontline Plus, Sentinel, Knockout).

Adulticide products for indoor use are usually of the permethryn/pyrethryn family. These usually last for a period of days to weeks and will kill newly hatched adults before they have a chance to get very far.

Borate powders are also popular amongst some folks. These powders can be worked into the carpets where they will dry out and kill the flea eggs and larva. They are seen by many as a "safer" alternative to chemicals. They are quite safe, but are a bit of a mess to apply.
One final word: Notice I haven't mentioned anything that kills pupae? There really isn't anything short of fire. That'll kill 'em. This is important to keep in mind because it means that no matter how effective our adulticide and IGR program is, there is a population of fleas waiting to hatch out over the next couple of weeks. This is why you must remain diligent and expect that it will take some time to resolve the problem. One treatment on the dog and the house won't do it.


Attack of the Killer Grass Awns

Posted by Aaron

Friday, May 29, 2009

This poor little dog managed to get these 4 little grass awns trapped in the sac under the upper eyelid on the left eye. The foreign bodies then proceeded to wear a little ulceration on the cornea. In the images above, the neon green thing is the ulcer after it has been stained and looked at with ultraviolet light. The grass awns (or seeds) are in the picture at the bottom.

Grass awns are dangerous because they are barbed in only one direction and are very, very good at migrating around the body if they ever get up under the skin. As they travel along they deposit bacteria of various degrees of nastiness. There are many cases of these little buggers entering a wound on the chest, for instance, and then migrating around until they actually end up in the chest cavity causing horrid infection.

The cornea is the clear part of the surface of the eye. It is composed of dozens of layers of cells in a laminar, or onion, type configeration. The cornea is transparent because the thickness of the cells is a very specific measurement (even multiples of the wavelength of visible light) and so light passes right through. In the case of trauma or ulceration of the cornea, it takes on an opaue appearance due to swelling of the cells. This opacity resolves as the swelling resolves.

Since the cornea doesn't have its own blood supply for nutrition (blood vessels wouldn't be transparent so the body choose not to put them there) then it depends on the tear film on the outside and the fluid in the front chamber of the eye from behind. So in the case of damage or ulceration of the cornea, any medications you give must be given frequently or they simply wash away.

In the case of a scratch to the cornea, we assume that it either is or is about to be infected. Again, without blood flow, there are few white blood cells there to help fight the normal exposure to bacteria.

This poor little guy should do fine in the long run. If we can get the infection under control and get the cornea to heal cleanly, we will hopefully only have a thin, nearly transparent scar on the cornea. As long as he doesn't have to read or drive a car, he'll never notice.



Posted by Aaron

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Just thought I'd share this one with you. This stone is from a visla that was "rescued" this week. She was found out running around in a field and taken to the shelter. The foster picked her up and on the way home she urinated blood, so they brought her to me. She was wicked painful and had a fairly substantial urinary tract infection. Her urinary bladder was REALLY thick and really painful.

I've mentioned stones in a previous post. This one is cool because it is so large and very sharp. I don't know what caused this stone. It's most likely going to be a struvite and was probably caused by a bladder infection that progressed to the bladder infection from hell.

The good news is that she should do just fine in the long run. We'll change her diet for now. Once the stone analysis comes back we'll be able to decide what to do long-term. She's a very sweet, submissive, scared dog and she needs a home. Let me know if you know of anyone in need of a sweet pet. She's probably best suited to a home by herself, although we know so little about her.


Vampire Veterinarian

Posted by Aaron

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I've had a couple of folks ask me recently about blood transfusions in dogs. We've all heard the docs on ER call out "put two units of O-neg on the rapid infuser. Type and cross-match for two more." It's actually very similar in dogs and cats (although not usually that dramatic).

Whole blood is made up of red cells, white cells, platelets, and various blood proteins. Red cells are what make blood red. Their color is the result of the hemoglobin protein that is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. White cells are, generally speaking, your immune system workhorses. Platelets are responsible for creating clots and stopping bleeding. The blood proteins are too numerous to list, but the major ones are antibodies (globulins) and albumin (the most prevalent protein).

Just like in people, dogs and cats have specific blood types. In people, there are types O, A, AB, and B. Additionally there is the Rf factor (O+ versus O-). In dogs the blood types are called DEA (Dog Erythrocyte Antigen) and although about 10 are described, the ones we are concerned with are DEA 1.1, 1.2, and 1.7. Blood types in cats are limited to A, B, and AB. 95% of cats are type A in the U.S. Persians and British Shorthairs are most likely to be type B. That's important because giving A blood to a B cat is likely to kill them because type B cats have natural antibodies against type A blood. Donors are always typed. Universal canine donors are DEA 1.1, 1.2, and 1.7 "negative". There is no universal cat donor.

Prior to a transfusion, the recipient and donor blood is mixed together to check for compatibility (this is a simplification, but the general idea is correct). This is referred to as cross-matching. If the blood is incompatible, there is a danger that the recipient may simply reject the new cells and end up in a worse place than where they started.

When a person (or animal) donates blood, the whole blood in collected in a specially designed bag. Some blood is kept as whole blood. It has a shorter shelf-life and is less frequently used. Most blood is then spun down in these cool, huge, refrigerated centrifuge and the cells (now called packed cells) are separated from the plasma (the straw colored stuff that is now liquid gold and costs about as much). These products can be further processed to separate out things like clotting factors, specific types of cells, or special proteins. Most of the time they are simply kept as plasma (frozen and it keeps for quite a long time) or packed cells. The red cells are bathed in a mixture of electrolytes and energy that keeps the cells happy and alive for a period of weeks.

In the veterinary field, there are large blood banks that process the blood. If it is collected in a local hospital, it's usually collected as whole blood and used as whole blood on-site. I used to have one of the really groovy centrifuges where I worked in Connecticut and would process our own blood products. We were very lucky to be able to do this.

Most folks think of blood transfusions as something you do in cases of trauma and blood loss. That's what we've been exposed to on the television. Someone is shot, looses tons of blood, and then gets it replaced with some donated blood. That's only one of the reasons we may need blood. In cases where the body has been using up the red cells only (like if the immune system is inappropriately attacking the cells) then we may only need red cells. In cancer patients we may have destroyed all of their platelets or white cells and only need to supplement those particular cells and we don't want to give them whole blood.

As you can imagine, it's expensive to collect and process blood. The blood has a short shelf life and you have to spend a lot of money getting qualified donor. Blood transfusions in practice can range in price from $250 for a small dog to $1000 for plasma in a larger dog.


Car and Truck safety

Posted by Aaron

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm one of those people that really, really, really gets chaffed when I see a dog riding in the back of a pickup truck without any kind of restraint. It bugs the crap outta me. I've had to put a couple of these guys back together after they jump out, and I've had to put a few in the freezer because they didn't survive the jump.

When traveling in the car or truck, use the same kind of common sense you would when traveling with a three year old. In other words, expect them to do what you don't want them to do. Ideally, dogs inside the car are either in a crate or have a harness on that straps into the seatbelt. The big reason for this is that in the event of an accident, 30lbs of dog become an impressive projectile and can kill you outright when they collide with your head. It also ends badly for the dog too.

I know, I know, we all survived growing up riding in the back of grandma and grandpa's huge boat of a station wagon or a suburban with no seatbelts, crawling around, waving at the cars behind us while we rode backwards. And we didn't die. Well, now we know better. I'm guilty as the next person for letting my dogs roam freely around the car while I drive. Now I put them in the back of the SUV where at least there's a high seat between us. I need to get one of those gates to put up in the back.

Also, don't assume that your dog knows better than to jump out the window. I'm not exaggerating when I say I've put more than a few of those guys in the freezer after they jumped right out of the window.

Cats should be in a carrier. Scared cats have been known to climb owner's heads while traveling at high speeds down the highway and have caused accidents.

Dogs in pickup beds should be restrained. DON'T just tie a leash to the edge of the bed - they'll just hang themselves. Your best bet is a large kennel for the bed of the truck, or you can get a tie that strings across the bed of the truck and their lead then attaches to the center. This way they can move from side to side, but can't fall out and strangle themselves.


Wiener Dog Wheelchair

Posted by Aaron

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Allow me to introduce you to Hogan. He's a dachshund. He's a very lucky dachshund.

Hogan did what many dachshunds unfortunately do and managed to rupture a disk in his spine that put pressure on his spinal cord. Luckily, he was still able to move his limbs, hold his bowels, and control his urination. He just wasn't able to walk.

So the awesome team at the veterinary hospital took Hogan into their care and set him up in this fancy wiener dog trapeze. It took him a few days to get used to it, but he was able to get around pretty well.

After three weeks in the wheelchair he's able to walk on his own. It was faster than expected and VERY awesome.

Pretty cool, 'eh?


It was the tooth that killed him

Posted by Aaron

Monday, May 11, 2009

The pictures are too graphic and I'm not going to post them.

I had a little poodle come in today with a lower jaw that was dangling from his face. It kind of looked like he was yawning all the way to his neck (like those Reach toothbrush commercials). The stench from his mouth was nearly overpowering.

This little dog has been playing around the house and then came up to the owner with his jaw dangling. The owner knew that he had some "teeth problems" but didn't know how bad they were. What appears to have happened in his case is that the tooth decay caused so much bone loss around the tooth roots and the jaw simply snapped. The owners decided to euthanize him because the damage was so extensive and the cost of repairing his jaw was going to be too great.

Last year I had a dog come in nearly dead from blood loss. Seriously, he was white as a sheet. He had a severe tooth root abscess on one of his lower molars that had eroded the bone down to the canal that carries the blood supply of the lower jaw. While he was chewing on one of his toys, the tooth gave loose, lacerated the artery, and he nearly bled to death on the way to the hospital. We were able to get him enough fluid, get him asleep, get the offending tooth out, and stop the bleeding. We did a little bone grafting, antibiotics and luckily and he did great.

So, yes, dental disease kills. Sometimes it kills by allowing infection to migrate from the mouth to distant organs (like the kidneys). Other times the results are much more obvious.

In other words - please take this seriously and please listen to your veterinarian if they say there is severe dental disease present. This cases could have been prevented.


Sedation for Flying

Posted by Aaron

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pets can travel one of three ways on a plane with the owner. They can go as cargo, meaning they are on a different flight from the owner. They can go as checked baggage. Or if they are small enough they can ride in the cabin with the owner. The first two methods mean that the pet is in cargo in the belly of the plane. It's pressurized, but not temperature controlled.

I routinely have people ask if they can sedate the pet for flying. If the pet is flying in cargo - the answer is NO. The American Veterinary Medical Association even put out a position statement that says not to do it. In the belly of the plane with no heat, a sedated animal can't be monitored and is at great risk for hypothermia. Truth be told, most of these guys settle down and sleep when they are flying because it is loud and dark.

For pets riding up in the cabin, a sedative MAY be appropriate. Most importantly, we need to know if the prescribed sedative actually sedates the pet or if they get an idiosyncratic reaction where they actually get hyperactive.

I'm reminded of my daughters. When we flew with them the first time they were something like 8 months old. We gave them Benadryl. We figured that a little over-the-counter chemical restraint wouldn't be all bad :) One daughter passed out and slept the entire flight. The other one went CRAZY. Screaming, upset, crying, flopping about like a fish outta water. I spent most of the flight in the tiny airplane bathroom trying to calm her down. After 2 hours the flight attendant came and knocked on the door to say they needed me to go back to my seat. Luckily, by then she had calmed down and did not scream the rest of the flight.

Here's the point- don't give a medication for the first time right before you take off. You may end up spending two hours in the bathroom with a freaked out dog.

I'm a fan of using the Valium-type drugs in dogs. Better for sedation and anxiety. Many folks try acepromazine (Ace) and like it. Ace makes a dog drunk, but if they are anxious enough, they're just a stressed out drunk. Remember, this recommendation only counts for a small dog riding in the cabin with the owner.

In cats, the Valium type drugs can be problematic, ESPECIALLY when given orally. Ace can knock them on their tush and can be too much. There aren't as many good options for cats. I like using Feliway. It's a pheromone spray that stimulates the brain to calm down. Pretty cool. Google it and you'll find information on it. There is a similar product for dogs called DAP. These products don't work for all dogs and cats, but work very well in some.

Ask your veterinarian before you give your pets anything, though. Every pet is a bit different and what I may recommend for one, I might not for the next.

These recommendations also apply to travel by car. I'll even sedate a big dog in the car if necessary because you can watch them closely.


OMG - Raccoon "Ringworm?"

Posted by Aaron

Sunday, May 3, 2009

ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH. That's all I can say. The journalist needs to be given a long talking-to.


Raccoon Ringworm disease hits Brooklyn teen and baby

Sunday, May 3rd 2009, 4:00 AM

Fewer than 30 cases of Raccoon Ringworm have been reported nationwide.

A rare, deadly disease that has left an infant brain damaged and a teenager blind in one eye, has been detected in Brooklyn, the Daily News has learned.

The city's Department of Health is on alert for Raccoon Ringworm, a disease contracted through contact with raccoon feces. It can cause permanent nerve damage and death.

Update to post: Things that Fly and Sting!

Posted by Aaron

The phrase "allergic reaction" means lots of different things. As I mentioned in my previous post about things that fly and sting, allergic reactions of bees and wasps are fairly common things to see on emergency. The patient above doesn't usually look like a shar pei. He's actually a pyrenees, and usually has a much thinner nose. His lips are swollen and his eyes are very puffy.

About half an hour after getting steroids and Benadryl, he looked much better, although still puffy. We may never know what happened, but this appearance is typical for allergic reactions to insects and vaccines. As the reaction becomes worse there will be hives, vomiting, diarrhea, collapse, respiratory distress, and death.

This IS an emergency and needs to be treated. First aid treatment begins with diphenhydramine (Benadryl) at about 1mg/lb. This means a 25lb dog gets a 25mg caplet. 12lb dog gets half a tablet or gets 1tsp of the liquid stuff.

If you're not sure - DON'T GIVE IT and call your doctor or local ER.