Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An ounce of heartworm prevention...

I saw a new client last week. Her dog had vomiting and diarrhea. She has 3 dogs and a 2 year old son, just moved to the area a few months ago. She had to take another of her dogs to the emergency clinic the week before with diarrhea, where the dog was diagnosed with hookworms and whipworms. Now this dog was sick, the third was normal so far.

I took the little dog back to the lab to get a fecal sample, and what I got looked like pure watery blood. I checked her blood count; usually red blood cells make up 35-50% of the blood volume. This girl was up to 70%. Although she was losing blood in her stool, she was losing more fluid, making her dehydrated and extremely hemoconcentrated.

I did not find any parasites in the stool, but it's very likely the stool is so diluted with fluid that my test wasn't accurate. I recommended hospitalizing the little dog and putting her on intravenous fluids to replace her losses, and also to give her a heartworm test. Her dogs have been off heartworm prevention for a while, which is unfortunate since it also prevents intestinal parasites. I treated the dog for parasites anyway, and want her to bring in another stool sample to send to the lab next week.

While we were discussing my plan, her son was persistently tottering after the dog, giving him repeated hugs, usually on the hindend since the dog was patient but tired of all the toddler affection. "I feel bad," the owner said, "We've kind of let the dogs go since he was born."

I assured her I understood. All my pets moved way down on the priority list after the babies arrived. But parasite control is important, ESPECIALLY for families with small children. Roundworm larvae can travel through the tissues of human skin, causing an awful dermatitis. And it's extremely rare (700 cases a year), but the larvae can encyst in the eye of a human (especially children) and cause blindness.

I had her attention now.

After 24 hours of fluids, her dog made a good recovery and went home. The next week she brought in dog #3 for a check up. It's OK if you don't give your dogs as much attention after the baby is born. But realize that part of making your home safe for the baby is keeping the pets safe and parasite free. Think of your vet as "the other family doctor."


Emily said...

Way to go, Jenn! Sounds like you convinced another client and saved another canine.
I'm fortunate to have seen you in action with your clients. You are so good at explaining things in a way they can understand without being condescending like so many doctors.

Laura said...

What kind of heartworm treatment prevents other internal parasites? We use Heartguard. I know that it works by killing the heartworm larvae, but I wasn't aware it killed other parasitic spp.

Jennifer said...

Laura, Heartgard kills heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Interceptor kills all of the above plus whipworms. Sentinel kills all of the above plus has a flea growth inhibitor, so any fleas your dog picks up will lay no viable eggs.

Jennifer Helregel said...

i have question about a blog from like three years ago (about cat tongues) and i didn't know how else to get a comment to you so i'm leaving it here, i came home from work this evening and noticed my female cat acting weird, i got to looking closer and she wasn't moving her tongue, and her mouth had dried blood around it, after getting to her and looking her over, i tryed to look in her mouth, i noticed her tongue had a slight "slash" in it on her right side, she wouldn't really let me get a good look at it and it isn't bleeding anymore, i just wondered if there was anything i could do for her, she doesn't seem to be eating, but it's probably sore since it must have just happened today- she was fine this morning. any answers? i hope it's not bad enough to sent her to the vet again, we were just there a month or two ago after she got in a fight with something and got a nice gaping wound in her behind by her leg and anus, which healed beautifully, i just didn't know if there was anything else i needed to look for or could do for her since it doesn't appear to be very deep. please let me know. Thanks.