2018 New Year's Resolutions

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It is almost a bad word in itself: resolution. And yet I find it kind of freeing to figure out what I am going to accomplish in the coming year.  Every January my family and I make our resolutions, or goals, and we have fun doing it. Who would not want to fly around the world in a hot-air balloon? Yes, we shoot for the stars with some of our goals!

But why limit these resolutions to ourselves, when we should also include out pets! Maybe it is time to commit to helping Buddy lose a little weight, or perhaps pledging to start brushing Fluffy’s teeth (yes, daily!). It could be as simple as taking Rover on a longer walk in the mornings to build up his muscles to help with his early arthritis. Sometimes it is the little things that make the biggest impacts. Lets start the new year on the right foot, er, paw, and make some positive changes for our furry friends. We will be publishing more specific articles in our upcoming blog posts detailing more specifics on these topics and more!

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With resolutions and wellness in mind, we are once again revving up to provide pet educational workshops here at Southpoint Animal Hospital! We have covered many successful topics in the past, but we would love to see what would excite you to learn in 2018.  We hope to be offering a workshop every three months. 

To collect your feedback, we are going to have a poll, and will pick the topics that get the most interest. Simply complete the form below, choosing the topic you would most like to learn about; voting will close January 16th, and we will send an update with more information once the votes are tallied.

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Topicals and Collars and Tablets - Oh My! Making Sense of Flea and Tick Prevention Options

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Overview

Fleas and ticks are reaching almost epidemic levels here in the southeast, with more than half of all veterinary dermatological appointments having an underlying flea component.  Once established, flea infestations in the home can take months to effectively clear, often involving treatment of all pets, the home environment, and lawn.  Fleas can also cause health problems for your pet including anemia, skin infections, and the spread of tapeworms.  

Although ticks do not usually cause infestations, and are not as commonly found on cats as they are in dogs, they can transmit serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs.  But with so many flea and tick control options out on the market right now, how do you know which is right for your pet? In this article we will explore the different options, safety information, and efficacy of most of the available options.  

Topical Preventatives

Traditionally, topical flea and tick products have been the most commonly used. These products are applied once a month between your pet’s shoulder blades.  Because the topical product uses the oils on your pet’s skin to distribute, bathing is not recommended three days prior to, or after, application.  However, not all of these products are created equally.  Products like Frontline Plus, and most over the counter generic topical preventatives (Hartz, Adams, Sentry), that have the main ingredient Fipronil, are declining in their efficacy against fleas due to increasing levels of resistance.  Preventatives that have been more effective include K9 Advantix II and Frontline Gold due to an additive called Pyrethrin, which acts as a repellent for fleas and ticks.  It is very important to note that these products are for dogs only, as Pyrethrin is extremely TOXIC TO CATS.  Cats should not have any contact with a treated dog for at least 48 hours.  There are also combination topical preventatives for cats including Revolution and Advantage Multi, which protect against heartworm, intestinal worms, fleas, and ear mites.

Collar Preventatives

There are a multitude of collars available, but many of them have proven to be ineffective, with the exception of the Seresto Collar.  This is a collar that is made for both cats and dogs that has been highly effective against fleas and ticks for up to eight months.  This collar is left in place all the time, without removing for bathing or swimming.  

Oral Preventatives

The amount and diversity of oral products has been increasing tremendously over the past few years in response to an increase in demand.  For dogs, the most common products are prescription Nexgard, Simparica, and Bravecto.  These three products have proven to be highly effective for the prevention of fleas and ticks in dogs, and have a high safety margin, with little reported side effects. Nexgard and Simparica are monthly chewable tablets, while Bravecto is effective for 3 months per dose.  There are also combination oral preventatives for dogs, including Sentinel and Trifexis, which protect against fleas, some intestinal worms, and heartworm disease.  Since these products do not protect against ticks, we do not recommend them for dogs that spend a significant amount of time outside or in woodsy locations due to the high risks of ticks in the area. There is only one oral option for cats called Comfortis, which is effective against fleas only for one month.  

Conclusion

At Southpoint Animal Hospital, we are always happy to help you find the right product for you and your pet.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about flea and tick prevention or plan to discuss options with us at your next wellness exam.

Prepare for the Unexpected with Pet Insurance

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In the past three decades, personal pets have taken an elevated position in the average American household.   Fortunately, advances in veterinary medicine have resulted in a significantly improved quality and quantity of life for our pets over this same time.  Having pet health insurance can help bridge the gap between the expenses you expect to incur (wellness exams, vaccines, heartworm prevention) and what unexpected circumstances may arise, particularly as a pet ages.  

As pet owners, we don’t want to think about the possibility of our beloved, four-legged family member falling ill; however, we are all living beings, prone to injury and illness under certain conditions.   Let’s face the fact that life is a terminal illness for all of us, our pets included.  As humans, some of us experience health issues earlier in life and others later: genetics play a role, as does diet, environment, proactive health care, and just plain luck.  Our pets are no different.

Imagine that your cherished pet falls ill and you decide that a visit to your veterinarian is in order.  Spot’s clinical signs are vague and don’t fit with any obvious ailment.  Your veterinarian recommends that diagnostic testing is needed to gather more information to help obtain a diagnosis and guide a treatment plan.  After completing those tests and procedures, your veterinarian is able to give you a diagnosis for Spot’s condition.   Treating the condition entails a couple of injections that will help relieve your pet’s suffering.  Additionally, Spot will need medications that you will administer at home.   You are grateful and relieved that Spot will be on the mend soon, but while waiting for the treatments to be completed, it crosses your mind that it would have been nice to have the costs of the visit covered by pet insurance.

Some other common scenarios include:

*Rover escapes from the yard and has a run in with an automobile resulting in serious injuries that require immediate stabilization and surgery.  

*Fluffy gets in yet another tangle at the dog park resulting in a laceration that requires sutures.

*Sam, your older kitty, has been drinking more water and after visiting your veterinarian, you now face the seemingly daunting task of learning about Diabetes, insulin injections, and how to help Sam age gracefully in the face of a common, chronic disease.

All of these ailments are routine in veterinary medicine, can happen to any pet, at any time, and share the common denominator of an unexpected expense.  Pet insurance can help to eliminate the unfortunate position of not being able to afford to diagnose or treat an illness, or only being able to elect some of the treatment recommendations due to finances, which can potentially compromise your pet’s full recovery and future health.  

There are numerous pet health insurance companies, and as in human medicine, not all plans are created equal.  All plans require a deductible, will pay a portion of the total bill, and have an annual reimbursement cap (which is rarely met).  The similarities stop there and the policies can be difficult to compare.  For a basic understanding of pet health insurance, customer reviews and outlines of some basic plans, visit PetInsuranceReview.com.  There are many other online resources to help guide you through the maze of options.   Here at Southpoint Animal Hospital, we have received high marks from clients who have used the following companies:  Embrace, Trupanion, VPI, and Healthy Paw Pet Insurance.  By no means is this an all-inclusive list or a recommendation specifically from us.  If you currently have pet health insurance and have had great experiences with the provider, please let us know about it by emailing info@southpointpets.com.

Listed below are a few questions to consider when evaluating pet health insurance companies:

  1. Are the policies and information provided easy to understand?

  2. Were you able to quickly contact the company?  Were their customer service representatives friendly and helpful? Are their customer service hours reasonable?

  3. What kind of care is excluded or limited?  Dentistry? Cancer? Hereditary and congenital diseases?

  4. Are pre-existing conditions covered?  How is a pre-existing condition defined?  If my pet is diagnosed with a chronic illness in one year, is it considered pre-existing the next year and no longer covered?

  5. Are there limits per incident? Per year? Per lifetime? Per body system?  What are those limits, specifically?

  6. Are there policies that encompass annual exams and wellness services?  Are there policies available that only cover illness and injury, excluding annual wellness services?

  7. Can you choose a deductible?  Is the deductible per incident or annual? Can you elect to change your deductible in the following year?

  8. Is there co-insurance in addition to the deductible? Is there a maximum out of pocket per year?

  9. What is the waiting period before coverage begins?

  10. What is the maximum age of enrollment?

  11. Can you see any veterinarian you want?

  12. What happens to coverage and premiums as your pet gets older?  Can the company provide any data on their policyholders, as a group, on premium increases over time? What other data can the company provide regarding rates, claims, owner out of pocket costs, etc.

  13. How quickly are claims processed and paid?

  14. Are there reasons why a policy might be declined for renewal?

In summary, having pet insurance provides you with financial peace of mind when it comes to making decisions about your pet’s healthcare.   Regular wellness visits, a healthy lifestyle, a lean body weight, a clean mouth, and proactive lab work are your pet’s most important defenses against illness and injury.; however, expect the unexpected and rest assured that a pet insurance policy can help you through the tough times of illness and injury.

The Dental Health of Our Pets

There is no topic that is discussed more on a day-to-day basis than periodontal disease.  I’m the first person to admit to getting up close and personal with my four legged family members, and I know from first-hand experience how unpleasant a loving kiss can be when it comes from a foul smelling mouth!  So I thought I would take the time to expand on common questions and concerns that my clients have about periodontal disease and what we as responsible pet owners can be doing to prevent or slow down its progression.

First off, why should we care about periodontal disease?  Other than the obvious bad breath, does periodontal disease affect my pet?  The answer is a resounding YES!  Periodontal disease is recognized as the second most common disease process that veterinarians diagnose, with the first most common disease process being superficial dermatitis (skin disease), no big surprise there… 

As I have stated, the most common adverse effect that we as pet owners notice is the horrendous breath that welcomes us with the affectionate kisses that our cats and dogs provide.  This halitosis (bad breath) is due to bacterial overgrowth on teeth.  It turns out that bacterial overgrowth on teeth stinks to high heaven, and when that bacterial growth is left unchecked it is not subtle.  Our mouths are full of bacteria. It can colonize teeth within 4-6 hours.  This is why I can brush my teeth before bedtime, and yet I wake up with my wife commenting on my bad breath first thing in the morning.  The same process occurs in our pets, but our pets rarely brush their own teeth 2-3 times daily.

If we were only worried about bad breath then we would not make such a big deal about focusing on improving our pet’s dental health, but there are several other negative factors that concern us.  My biggest concern with periodontal disease is the chronic inflammation and the associated pain and discomfort that accompany it.  I’m always amazed at how tolerant our four legged loved ones are of pain and how little they are capable of expressing it.  I can’t tell you how many “normal” patients I have treated that have terrible oral pain, but show no detectable outward clinical signs.  Full disclosure, I am just as guilty as anyone of my clients when it comes to recognizing my own dog’s periodontal disease.  Both of my dogs fractured one of their premolars (the largest tooth in their mouths), and I didn’t have a clue until I took them in for their regular dental prophylaxis.  They both showed signs of severe endodontic disease  (disease below the gumline) during their dental cleanings and had to have a tooth extraction.  I was shocked, as a veterinarian and pet owner, to have found such diseased teeth in my own dogs because I never picked up on any abnormal clinical signs.  I was equally shocked to watch as my dogs’ overall demeanor and energy levels improved following their dental work.  For me it was only after I removed the problem that I recognized how much my dogs’ periodontal disease was affecting their day-to-day comfort.

And lastly, periodontal disease can cause a chronic inflammatory state that impacts the rest of our pet’s health.  Studies have shown that dogs and cats with chronic periodontal disease have a greater incidence of microscopic disease in several major organ systems, including the heart, kidneys, lungs and liver.  As with any chronic disease process, when addressed early and managed appropriately, we can prevent long term disease and help improve the overall health and quality of life of our pets. 

BEFORE Severe calculus and gingivitis, persistent puppy canine tooth. 

BEFORE Severe calculus and gingivitis, persistent puppy canine tooth. 

AFTER Post dental cleaning and extraction of puppy tooth.

AFTER Post dental cleaning and extraction of puppy tooth.

Enough about why we should care about our pet’s oral health, here are some recommendations to stay ahead of this common problem:

  1. Have your pet’s teeth evaluated by a veterinarian at least once a year. I can’t stress enough how important this is.  If we can recognize dental disease early and address it, we can prevent long-term negative implications.
     
  2. Brush, Brush and Brush!!! That’s right folks, brushing your pet’s teeth is still the number one preventative treatment.  There simply is no substitute for daily teeth brushing.  I know everyone reading this is groaning to themselves and I am fully aware of how much time and commitment daily teeth brushing requires, but with most pets it is doable.  I am the first to admit I failed many times when trying to train my dogs to accept teeth brushing.   But in my case I was the problem and not my pets.  The key to successful teeth brushing is setting a routine, positive reinforcement and most importantly BEING PATIENT!  I have countless stories of clients who have really committed to preventing periodontal disease.  A lot of my clients do not brush their pet’s teeth because they are nervous about it or just simply do not know how to get started.  Next time you are in the office, ask one of us to sit down with you and demonstrate proper brushing technique and appropriate training. 
     
  3. I am not deluded to thinking that each and everyone of us will be successful with daily brushing, thankfully there are some alternatives (these are by no means replacements for brushing).  Incorporating some combination of the following preventative measures can help slow down the rate of periodontal disease:
     
    • Dental Chews-  There are a variety of dental chews on the market.  I recommend a daily chew called Oravet made by Merial.  Next time you are in ask about the different chews that are available and we can find the one that fits with your individual pet.
    • Oral gels and rinses- These are a little more labor intensive than giving our pet a chew, but they can have great benefits and are easier to apply than brushing.
    • Water additives- These can be very helpful, however always speak with a veterinarian before using.  Some animals will dislike the flavor of the water additive and will avoid drinking water which can have negative adverse effects.
    • Dental Diets-  I am not a huge fan of dental diets.  I think implementing some combination of the options listed above is more effective.  I strive to get each and every one of my patients on a high quality diet for the benefit of their overall health and the dental diets really limit what we can choose from.
       
  4. Lastly, we have to remember that periodontal disease is progressive even with the best preventative plan.  When our pet’s dental disease progresses beyond basic preventative measures then it is time to have their teeth cleaned professionally.  Having a professional dental cleaning will be a decision we will make together during one of our visits.
BEFORE Severe calculus and gingivitis.

BEFORE Severe calculus and gingivitis.

AFTER Post dental cleaning procedure.

AFTER Post dental cleaning procedure.

There is a lot of information out there that touches upon dental disease in dogs and cats.  If you are interested in reading more about it then I recommend visiting the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website. This website was created by board certified veterinary dentists and is a wealth of knowledge and recommendations when it comes to preventing and addressing periodontal disease.

Remember that this is a joint effort and there is no one single plan that works best for each dog or cat. Don’t be shy next time you are in the exam room with one of us, we encourage questions and or concerns about our pets’ dental health. 

BEFORE Severe calculus and gingivitis.

BEFORE Severe calculus and gingivitis.

AFTER Post dental cleaning procedure.

AFTER Post dental cleaning procedure.