Hiking and Camping with your Dog
by Dr. Sandy Tisdelle
One of the best things about having a dog, for me, is the opportunity to get outdoors with my pet. North Carolina offers so many trails and mountains and beautiful places to take a short hike or overnight camping trip. I love bringing my dog so she gets some fresh air and a chance to take in all the smells. Before I set out, I always make sure I have a few things not only in case of an emergency but also just to help keep my pet comfortable.
- Vaccines: While all the vaccines we give your pet are important, be sure that your pet is up to date on both rabies and Leptospirosis if you are going to be in the woods. The rabies vaccine is the law but it is also a very dangerous and deadly disease. If your dog gets into a scuffle with a wild animal while hiking or camping and he/she is not up to date on a rabies vaccination, he will have to be quarantined for up to 6 months!! Not to mention the danger of him actually getting rabies. If your pet is up to date, most likely he or she will just need a rabies booster. Leptospirosis is a dangerous bacteria that lives in standing water and is shed in the urine of some wild animals. While it is not the law for you to vaccinate your dog against this, the disease is often fatal and is contagious to people.
- Water: I cannot stress this one enough. Water, water, water. If you plan on hiking even a few miles with your dog, especially during the summer, you MUST bring water for her. Dogs do not dissipate heat very well because they do not sweat. Therefore it is very important that they do not overheat and that they stay hydrated. I take a backpack and put a few extra water bottles in it with a bowl for my dog. In the summer, I use one of the water bottles just to soak her down in the middle of the walk. Keep in mind that before dogs are really full grown (8 months to a year for most breeds), excessively long walks or strenuous exercise is hard on their joints. It is best to wait until your dog’s skeleton is mature to go on long hikes.
- Preventatives: As a veterinarian, I feel like I cannot remind my clients enough…heartworms come from mosquitoes!!!! All dogs need to be on heartworm prevention but if you are out in the woods with your dog, he is at greater risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Make sure your dog is getting his monthly heartworm prevention. Flea and tick prevention is also extremely important. Dogs have a lot of fur and if they get ticks, you may not realize right away. Most tick diseases are not transmitted immediately and transmission depends on how long the tick is attached. Ticks transmit a wide variety of silent and difficult to diagnose diseases to dogs that can make your dog very sick for a long time. Ask your veterinarian about proper preventatives and which are right for you pet before embarking on outdoor adventures. HA, em”bark”, get it?!
- First Aid: On long trips, some of the following items might be useful as a doggie first aid kit. Benadryl tablets can help with allergic reactions from bites and stings. Ask your vet about a proper dose. Water can and should be used to flush cuts and scrapes or bring peroxide if you are camping. Bandage material consisting of gauze underneath a self-adherent wrap (can be purchased at drug stores) is a convenient way to cover lacerations in dogs since band aids generally do not stick. If you are really going on a long trip, doggie hiking booties (which can be found at most large pet stores, online, and even some outdoor recreational stores) will help protect your dog’s paw pads from getting worn off and raw. Dog sunscreen (zinc oxide) is important for many light colored breeds with pink skin on the ear tips a and bridge of the nose. These also can be purchased at most pet stores. Even dogs can get sun induced cancers. On the opposite spectrum, small breeds and thin coated breeds will benefit from clothing (yay, a legitimate excuse to dress our pets!) in the cold and snow.
- Leashes: One of the fun things about taking your dog out to run on the trails is letting them off leash. However, no matter how well trained your dog is, they can still get spooked and they still have instinct. Unless you are certain about your surroundings, leashes are advised while on trails. This helps deter your dog from running after a scent, getting lost, being spooked by another dog or hiker on the trail, and pulling them out of the way for bikes and other hazards which may be sharing the same path. It is one of the best ways to keep your dog safe when hiking.
The moral of the story is that these journeys will be more fun if everyone stays safe!!! That being said, enjoy the adventures.
Food Allergies: What is best? – Grain free, limited ingredient, hydrolyzed?
Over the past several years, food allergies have become a recognized condition in pets. Because of this the food market has been flooded with a host of “allergy friendly” or “hypoallergenic” pet foods. So how do you know what is right for your pet? Food allergies, as in people, can be to a host of items. Most pets, unlike people, are allergic to the protein source (meat) in the food NOT the grain (which is more common in people). For this reason switching to a grain free option may not be effective. In pets that have food allergies, the first diet recommendation is to switch to a diet based on a meat source the pet has NOT been exposed to previously. This can be difficult as many food companies will mix meat sources. For example they may mix lamb and chicken, or salmon and beef. This is why prescription diets are formulated- to ensure there is only one protein source in the food. When in doubt looking at the ingredient list can shed light on what protein sources are used in the food.
Once a pet is started on a food trial, the chosen food must be fed a minimum of 8 weeks before it can be determined if it is effective in controlling signs. It must also be the ONLY item fed. This means flavored supplements, medications and treats must be discontinued and non-flavored options chosen. It takes this long for the immune system to finish reacting to the offending item in the previous food. If after 8 weeks there is little to no improvement, additional diet changes may need to be tried. In a small number of pets we find that the allergy is not to the meat, OR the grain, but is to a preservative or additive in the food. These pets face a bigger challenge in finding an adequate diet, and in some cases require hydrolyzed prescription diets or home cooked diets to avoid the offending allergens. If you believe your pet is suffering from food allergies, talk to your veterinarian about food trial options.
Written by Dr. Kerri Blackburn
Bridget Andersen, DVM
Approximately 4 months ago there was an outbreak of a strain of the Canine Influenza virus in the Chicago area. While it was first believed that the virus was the same Influenza strain (H3N8) first isolated in Florida in 2004, subsequent studies have shown that this outbreak is more closely related to the Asian strains of Influenza A H3N2. These viral strains have been affecting dogs in China and South Korea since 2006 and this virus outbreak likely came from that region.
Since the outbreak in Chicago was confirmed with a broadly targeted Influenza-A matrix PCR test, cases have also been confirmed in other parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia, and Alabama. Both strains of Influenza virus (H3N8 and H3N2) cause coughing, nasal discharge, high fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. The clinical signs of H3N2 may be more severe as this may be a more virulent strain based on the widespread nature and short time frame in which the virus spread. While thousands of cases have been confirmed, only 6 dogs have died from the virus.
There is a vaccine developed to protect dogs from the H3N8 strain of the virus. It is unknown whether the currently available canine H3N8 flu vaccines will protect dogs against the H3N2 strain. However, at this time it is recommended to vaccinate high risk dogs against the H3N8 strain with the currently available strain because the H3N8 strain is still a risk, and because there might be some cross protection against the H3N2 strains of the virus. High risk dogs include dogs with high exposure to other dogs such as doggy day care, dog parks, boarding facilities, dog shows, sporting events, and dogs living in inner cities.
Currently at Animal Medical Hospital, we are only recommending the vaccine for dogs or their owners who are traveling to endemic areas and are coming into contact with dogs in those areas. If an outbreak of the virus is reported in North Carolina, we will likely change our protocol and we will notify our dog owners immediately.
To learn more please visit this link: doginfuelza.com
Ever wonder what people are really talking about when they use the term ‘arthritis’? Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joint. There are different types of arthritis but the most common is degenerative joint disease (DJD). DJD, or osteoarthritis, is a chronic, progressive disease by which the cartilage in the joint that provides a cushion between the bones is broken down. This exposes the underlying bone and causes pain by allowing the bones to rub against each other. The rubbing causes irregular bone growth at the ends of the bone which also contributes to the pain. Cartilage break down can occur secondary to joint instability (due to ligament damage or trauma), disease within a joint, or because of chronic wear and tear on old joints. In dogs, we generally see secondary osteoarthritis because of chronic joint problems like hip dysplasia and knee injuries.
Often, we only begin to talk about arthritis in our pets when they are clearly having trouble getting up, or have a hard time taking the stairs or getting into the car. In cats, we may see that they do not want to jump as high as they used to. When we see these signs our pets are telling us that they are in a significant amount of pain. There can be earlier changes in younger pets that can signify the beginning of osteoarthritis. Generally speaking, the dog that gets sore or stiff after a day at the park, or the cat who’s walking just a little different.
It is important to talk to your veterinarian about any changes that you notice in your pet’s mobility at any age. The most important factors in controlling and slowing down osteoarthritis are weight management, routine exercise and anti-inflammatory medication as needed. Additionally, there are special diets and supplements that can help to prolong the strength of the cartilage in the joints and decrease inflammation. The earlier you take steps to improve joint health, the longer your pet will live an active, comfortable life.
Guinea pigs develop dietary preferences early in life and do not adapt readily to changes in type, appearance, or presentation of their food or water. The optimum diet for a guinea pig should contain guinea pig pellets, grass hay and supplemented with fresh vegetables. Guinea pigs are completely herbivorous and enjoy a variety of leafy greens. All fresh vegetables should only be left in the cage for a few hours and only a small amount of fruits should be offered. Good quality hay should be available at all times and pellets can be given free choice as well. Guinea pigs require a dietary source of Vitamin C and should be offered in the way of green leafy vegetables (kale, parsley, beet greens, chicory, spinach), red and green peppers, broccoli, tomatoes or small amount of kiwi and oranges. Make sure to speak to your veterinarian if you have questions about your guinea pig’s diet.