The cat was sick. He was flat out on the table with a low body temperature and diarrhea just running out of him. The history was that he had been vomiting and having diarrhea for a couple of days. The bloodwork would tell the tale. He only had 100 white blood cells, instead of the normal 12,000. It was Panleukopenia and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do for him. He was humanely euthanized. The saddest part is that this didn’t need to happen. It was totally preventable. He never received his full set of vaccines, which would have protected him.
In this age of anti-vaccines, this case is a stark reminder of why we vaccinate in the first place. The diseases that are covered in the core vaccines are still lurking out there, waiting for a drop in your pet’s immunity or lack of vaccines to strike. They are often deadly diseases. The reason we don’t see these diseases anymore is precisely because of the vaccines most of our pets receive. As of the end of March, we already had 77 cases of rabies diagnosed in Pennsylvania this year. Herd immunity (the immunity around your pet from other vaccinated pets) does provide a small degree of protection, but to achieve full immunity you need to vaccinate your individual pet.
The most frustrating part of the anti-vaccine movement is that the original article that started this movement was totally false. In 1998 Dr. Wakefield published an article in the Lancet linking the MMR vaccine and autism. Since it’s publication, Dr. Wakefield has admitted that he falsified all the data. The article has been rescinded, and he has lost his license. However, the damage was done. Now a portion of the public doesn’t trust vaccines. That is sad because vaccines have literally been a lifesaver. Yes, nothing is perfect. Which is why we tailor our recommendations to your pet’s lifestyle, and the frequency of vaccines has changed. However, that doesn’t mean that you can totally skip vaccines. Vaccines are safe and can prevent a whole lot of heartache. Do you really want to take that chance?
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
Yah, it’s that time of the year. Baseball season (Gooooo Phillies!!!). Oh yeah, and it’s also time for ticks. Any time we have weather above 45 degrees, ticks can start to be active. Which means, while we had a colder than normal March and 1st day of April, they will be out in force later this week. Unless your pet spends 100% of their time indoors (going outside to go to the bathroom counts as going outside), you need flea and tick control in this area. We have different options – collars, oral products, and topicals. As a nudge for you to start your pet’s tick control, here are some fun facts.
- In this area we have the American Dog tick, Black Legged tick, Brown Dog tick, and the Lone Star tick. The new arrival, the Asian Longhorned tick is in the northeast area of Pennsylvania.
- Ticks can survive the winter by going dormant, latching onto a host, or going underground.
- The CDC lists 12 diseases that are carried by ticks in the United States. In this area, ticks carry Tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Babesia.
- Ticks have 4 life stages. They are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than other insects. A female tick can lay 3,000 eggs.
- In Berks County your dog has a 1 in 8 chance of getting Lyme disease, a 1 in 15 chance of getting Anaplasmosis, and a 1 in 24 chance of getting Erhlichia.
So, how is your tick control?
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
As we count down the last days of 2018, the topic of resolutions always come up. Resolutions are a great way to refocus for the new year and to set goals. I am sure you have resolutions for yourself, but have you thought about some resolutions for you and your pet? Here are some suggestions:
- Daily exercise. Good for both you and your pet.
- Teach or refresh your dog’s basic manners. There are a lot of good classes in the area. A well-behaved dog is always a joy to be around.
- Give your dog monthly heartworm preventative. If your dog isn’t on heartworm preventative, have him/her tested and started on preventative.
- Regular flea and tick control for dog and cats. Even in the winter! Two days of 50-degree weather will result in ticks being active.
- Keep your pet’s vaccines up to date.
- Bring a fecal to your annual exam. Even indoor cats can pick up parasites from bugs in the house.
- Buy health insurance for your pet. Illness and accidents happen. How much easier would it be if finances weren’t an issue?
- Have an annual exam for your pet even if their vaccines are not due. We can find problems early with a good physical before they spiral out of control.
- Teach your dog or cat a new trick or start a sport. It will strengthen your bond and keep your pet’s mind active.
- Love your pet.
From the staff at Willow Creek Veterinary Center, we hope you have a happy and healthy 2019!
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
A couple of weeks ago my veterinary class celebrated our 25th class reunion. I couldn’t attend because I was at a horse show, but I started thinking of all the changes that have occurred in veterinary medicine in the time I have practiced.
- Pain medicine has advanced greatly, and our understanding of pain has also improved. 25 years ago, dogs rarely got Bute or aspirin, which we now know universally causes stomach ulcers. Today we have different classes and choices of pain medication. Infusions of pain medication are routine but underheard of then. While we are currently struggling with an opioid shortage, we still have many more choices then we use to have. 25 years ago, cats had nothing for pain. Due to their unique metabolism, we still have only a small amount of choices compared to dogs, but at least we have something.
- Drugs available for anesthesia are safer and we have more choices. We also have drugs that allow us to safely sedate your pet in the office and then reverse the drugs and send your pet home shortly after a procedure
- Flea control consisted of shampoos, dips, sprays and bombs. Today’s choices include topicals, orals, and collars.
- We have a better understanding of the role of diet in our pet’s health. Dog and cat food has better ingredients, made into better formulas. Dog food companies are now actually changing diets to change the gene expression of animals to control disease.
- Veterinary specialists are more readily available and accepted. In my first practice the closest specialty hospital was over 2 hours away. It only offered limited specialists. A lot of times, we did things because we were the only option for our clients. It was fun because it allowed us to stretch our wings and do procedures that we are obligated to refer today. My first boss told me he felt sorry for me, because he predicted correctly that as my career went along we all would be sending more and more to the specialists.
- As I write this, I am on call for our patients. Our hospital is one of the last hospitals in the county that take emergency calls. 24/7 emergency clinics are commonplace now, providing supervised care for patients. This allows our patients to have the best care possible and allows veterinarians and their staff to have a work/life balance that didn’t exist before. At the first hospital I worked at, I got 3 days off out of every 14 days. That schedule was commonplace.
- The internet didn’t exist, so our research was limited to books and phone calls to specialists we had a relationship with.
- Dental care has advanced, and we understand the relationship of periodontal disease to the health of the rest of the body.
- Allergy treatment has improved just in the past 2 years, and as a result we are able to keep a lot of pets comfortable without having to resort to treatments with long-term side effects.
I don’t feel as if I have been practicing for 25 years (my mother can’t believe she has a daughter that has been a vet for that long either). I can only imagine what the next 25 years will bring.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
This past week I noticed a trend among our clients. As part of a pet’s annual exam, I always try to examine the mouth (if Fluffy will let me). When I mentioned the grade of tartar found on the pet’s teeth, I was told by multiple clients that their groomer cleans their dog’s teeth. Brushing a dog or cat’s teeth every 6-8 weeks is not enough. If you are going to brush your pet’s teeth, it needs to be done several times a week, if not daily. I feel bad for these clients, because brushing teeth every two months is a waste of money. Please also understand that what your groomer does is not the same as a complete dental performed at our office. A complete dental involves an examination of all tooth and gum surfaces under general anesthesia, a complete cleaning and polishing, and a fluoride treatment.
If you would like suggestions on how to care for your pet’s teeth so you can get the most bang for your buck, please reach out to our staff. We have different types of products (chews, additives, food) to work with every pet and lifestyle.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
Celebrations this February include Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, President’s Day, Chinese New Year (2018 is the Year of the Dog!), Veterinary Dental Health Month, and Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. Obviously, the last two take special precedence for our practice.
This year we are offering 20% off the dental cleaning until the end of March. By 3 years of age, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can spread via the blood stream. This can lead to infections of the liver, kidney, heart, lungs, and trigger diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Signs of dental disease include tartar, bleeding from the mouth, excessive drooling, discomfort when touching the mouth, loose or discolored teeth, loss of appetite, and bad breath. Once we clean your pet’s teeth, there are multiple options to keep the teeth clean. Our staff can review which option would work best for you and your pet.
Spaying and neutering is also an important step in protecting your pet’s health. Cats can have litters 3 times a year with an average of 4 kittens per litter. In 7 years one unspayed female and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats. An unspayed dog and her offspring can produce 99,000 dogs in the same time. Seventy thousand puppies and kittens are born in the United States each day (compared to 10,000 babies a day), and 6-8 million dogs and cats enter the shelters each year. Over half of these animals will not be adopted. Spaying and neutering can help decrease the chance of cancer (ovarian, mammary, uterine, prostate, testicular), fights, wandering, infections, and unwanted litters. It really is in your pet’s best interest to spay or neuter.
As always, helping your pet have the healthiest life is always our top concern!
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
Happy 2018! Although Berks County has been in the deep freeze for the past couple of weeks, they are still out there! What am I talking about? Parasites.
The numbers are in for 2017 with 3.27% of dogs in Berks County having had roundworms (1 in 31). Hookworms are in at 2.87% (1 in 35), whipworms — 1.07% (1 in 94), and giardia — 4.9% (1 in 21). Cats fared no better with 3.29% (1 in 30) having had giardia, 1.12% (1 in 90) had hookworms, and 8.79% (1 in 12) had round worms.
So how do you prevent your family pet from being part of the statistics for 2018? First, check a fecal at your next vet visit. If you can’t get a sample, ask the technician or veterinarian to get a sample so we can test it while you are at the office. That way we can address any issues while you are at Willow Creek. Puppies and kittens should have at least 4 fecals tested in the first year of their lives. This is due to the lifecycle of the parasites. Adult dogs and cats should have 1-2 fecals a year depending on their lifestyles and health.
Kittens and puppies should be dewormed every two weeks until they are put on a broad-spectrum monthly preventative. Adult dogs and cats should be on a year-round broad-spectrum parasite control. The Companion Animal Parasite Council has a great website for guidelines for pet owners about parasites, the risks to people, and how best to protect your family pet. www.petsandparasites.org
Let’s do our best to keep you and your pets as healthy as possible!
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
How many worms, ticks, viruses, or fleas on your pet are OK with you? Ten? One hundred? One thousand? I am going to bet that your answer is zero. Unfortunately, parasites are a constant threat to our pets. Most parasites are microscopic, so the threat goes unnoticed. It is amazing how many people decline an annual fecal exam because “they don’t see anything in their pet’s stool”!
There is a very interesting website (www.capcvet.org) that breaks down the incidence of parasites in all the counties in the United States and Canada. The following are the current statistics for Berks county:
Lyme disease – 18.9% (1 of 6 dogs test positive)
Erhlichiosis – 1.81% (1 of 56)
Anaplasmosis – 8.36% (1 of 12)
Roundworms – 3.11% (1 of 33)
Hookworms – 2.46% (1 of 41)
Whipworms – 1.11% (1 of 90)
Giardia – 4.95% (1 of 21)
Heartworm – 0.04% (1 of 157)
FeLV – 1.97% (1 of 51 cats)
FIV – 5.7% (1 of 18)
In our practice, we diagnose dogs with Giardia on a regular basis. Currently we have 2 dogs that are undergoing heartworm treatment. So, the threat is real. Please bring in a fecal when your pet comes in for their annual exam. Our staff is ready to answer any questions about the threat of parasites to your pet, and will help you formulate a plan to lessen the risk to your pet.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D
Boogie Monsters DO Exist!
Boogie monsters are the stuff of childhood stories and Stephen King horror novels. However, in the real world they are still out there, waiting to take advantage of the vulnerable cat or dog. In July, Berks county experienced a rabid dog at another veterinary clinic. The dog had its initial puppy shot, but the owner did not follow up with any additional vaccines. The dog was kept outside, but had no history of injuries or bite wounds. The dog developed vomiting, that progressed to seizures. Luckily the veterinarian tested the dog, and now the entire veterinary staff, and the family are having to endure the post-exposure treatment.
This year our clinic has had to treat several dogs for heartworm infection. The disease is carried by mosquitos, and treatment involves several days of injections, along with exercise restriction for weeks after the treatment. We have seen some patients that have not returned for their treatment, resulting in a source of infection in the community for other dogs.
The sad part is that all these situations were entirely preventable. Rabies vaccines are readily available, and required by state law for any dog and indoor cat over 12 weeks of age. Monthly heartworm preventative is inexpensive, and highly effective. Please feel free to ask our staff if you have any questions about vaccines and heartworm preventative. Don’t let the boogie monsters have their way with your beloved pet!
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
As we head into warmer weather, it is time to share some fun tick facts.
- Ticks are part of the Arachnoid species, so they are more closely related to spiders and scorpions.
- There are over 800 species of ticks.
- Ticks crawl up their hosts, and are attracted to their hosts by heat, odor, and CO2.
- The majority of ticks use 3 different hosts for their 3 different life stages.
- Ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit disease.
- Ticks have anti-inflammatory and anesthetic agents in their saliva to make it less likely that their hosts will notice that they have been bitten.
- Temperatures have to be less than 10F for a long period of time for ticks to die.
- Male ticks die right after mating.
We have multiple options for controlling ticks. Please talk to one of our staff members about what may be appropriate for your pet. And, it is quite likely, you may find one of these on your human self! We also have “tick twisters”, which can be used on humans and pets, alike.