Posts Tagged ‘Flea Control’

Preventive Healthcare Guidelines: Part I

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Photo Credit: Susie Schlesinger

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have just jointly published Canine and Feline Preventive Healthcare Guidelines .  These guidelines are being distributed to veterinarians throughout the United States. The goal of the guidelines is to coach veterinarians on thoroughly counseling their clients on disease prevention.

To begin with, the new guidelines emphasize the importance of an annual examination as an opportunity to discuss nutrition, exercise, body weight, training, and parasite control, as well as provide early disease detection and treatment. This recommendation is vital because, for years, veterinarians have inadvertently trained their clients to bring their dogs and cats in for vaccinations rather than for a thorough physical examination and discussion of several important issues. The vaccine emphasis has backfired- now that adult core vaccinations are administered once every three years, clients are tending to show up with their pets only every three years rather than annually.

I will now walk you through the AAHA/AVMA preventive healthcare guidelines for cats. (My next blog post will include those pertaining to dogs.) As you read the following, please bear in mind that these guidelines were written for veterinarians. I will interpret as I type.

Preventive Health Care Guidelines for Cats

History: Discussion with the client should include lifestyle and life stage (age related issues), behavior, and diet. Note to reader- history taking includes so much more than this. I believe the authors of these guidelines wanted to ensure that discussion of life stage, behavior, and diet are always included along with discussion of particular symptoms or diseases.

Comprehensive annual physical examination: The exam should include dental assessment, pain assessment, body and muscle condition score (this is where you will learn if your kitty’s size is too large, too little, or just right). Note to reader- these components hardly represent a thorough or comprehensive physical examination. My sense is that veterinarians are being reminded to be sure to include these items.

Assessments: On the basis of history and physical examination findings the veterinarian should assess the following: medical conditions, parasite prevention and control, dental care, genetic issues, breed-related issues, age considerations, behavior, nutrition, infectious and zoonotic diseases.  Note to reader- zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Feline examples of this are toxoplasmosis and ringworm.

Client communication and education plan: According to these guidelines every cat should receive:

-Heartworm testing in accordance with existing guidelines. Note to reader- this will vary based on location and prevalence of disease.

-Testing for retroviruses (feline leukemia virus and feline AIDS virus) in accordance with existing guidelines. Note to reader- this will be based more on your kitty’s lifestyle than anything else.

-Annual testing for internal (intestinal) parasites

-Year-round broad-spectrum parasite control with efficacy against heartworms, intestinal parasites, and fleas; discussion about tick control

-Immunization with core vaccines (rabies, panleukopenia, feline herpesvirus-1, calicivirus) in accordance with existing guidelines. For kittens, feline leukemia virus vaccination is recommended.

-Appropriate identification including microchipping.

-Reproductive and genetic counseling and spaying or neutering unless specifically intended for reproductive purposes.

Lastly, the Preventive Health Guidelines recommend formulation and discussion of a plan for every individual patient. This plan is based on the history provided by the client in conjunction with physical examination findings. Topics that may be appropriate to discuss include:

-Diagnostic tests.

-Early disease screening tests. Note to reader- for example, if your kitty is a senior citizen, blood and urine testing may be recommended annually.

-Genetic screening tests. Note to reader- for example, if your kitty is a Maine Coon Cat, early testing for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a heart muscle disease) should be recommended.

-Tick control.

-Therapeutic recommendations.

-Dental recommendations.

-Behavioral recommendations.

-Environmental enrichment recommendations. Note to reader- this refers to ways to provide psychological stimulation (cat toys, scratching posts, climbing structures, other cats).

-Dietary and feeding recommendations.

-Immunization with non-core vaccines in accordance with existing guidelines.

-Other preventive recommendations and counseling regarding zoonotic diseases. Note to reader- as mentioned above, zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted from animal to humans.

Whew! After reading all of this I’m tired! Are you? Believe it or not, all of this really can (and in my opinion, should) happen during the course of an annual examination.

Please bear in mind, these are guidelines for veterinarians, not rules. Your vet gets to choose whether or not to comply with these suggestions. And you get to choose who earns the privilege of caring for your precious kitty.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the particulars of these guidelines. Does your cat receive an annual health examination?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Potential Dog Park Diseases

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Dog Park Joy

Many people enjoy taking their dogs to the dog park, and I’m commonly asked if, from a canine contagious disease point of view, the dog park is a safe place for dogs to be.  Here is the advice I give:  

1. Be sure your dog has ample immunity (vaccine protection) against distemper and parvovirus, both of which are life threatening diseases readily transmissible from dog to dog. This can be accomplished by vaccinating at appropriate intervals (more than once every three years for adult dogs is too much) or by regularly performing blood testing (vaccine serology) to ensure adequate protection. Read the chapter in Speaking for Spot called “The Vaccination Conundrum” for a complete discussion on vaccination timing, the risks and benefits of vaccinations, and vaccine serology.

2. Consider the potential risks and benefits of vaccinating your dog for Bordatella (this is often referred to as the “kennel cough” vaccine).  Kennel cough refers to treatable upper respiratory tract infections that primarily cause coughing, the kind that, left untreated, have the potential to keep you and your dog awake all night! Because kennel cough is highly contagious, some dog parks may require that dogs be vaccinated for Bordatella before participating (oy, I can only imagine the nightmare monitoring  this would be).  Unfortunately, the Bordatella vaccination is not a 100% insurance policy that your dog won’t get kennel cough because Bordatella is only one of several microorganisms capable of causing kennel cough.  Treatment for kennel cough typically consists of antibiotics and cough suppressant medication.

3. Intestinal parasites are readily transmitted between dogs, particularly in high-traffic dog park.  If you frequent the dog park, have your dog’s stool sample checked regularly for parasites.  Ask your veterinarian for his or her recommendation regarding frequency of testing as the prevalence of parasites varies from region to region.

4. Heartworm disease (long, spaghetti-like worms that set up housekeeping within the heart) is transmitted from dog to dog via mosquitoes.  Talk with your veterinarian to learn whether or not heartworm disease exists in your area.  If so, be sure your dog regularly receives heartworm preventive (whether you frequent the dog park or not).

5. Fleas are always on the lookout for their next meal, so you may find that your flea-free pooch arrives home from the dog park riddled with fleas.  Discuss options with your vet so you can choose the flea control options that you are most comfortable with.

It’s a good idea for every dog park organization to keep an updated telephone/email list in order to broadcast “contagious disease sightings,” the same way parents receive notification from their children’s school about health issues such as head lice. Bear in mind that, while contagious diseases at the dog park do exist, risks of physical injury associated with canine altercations, and risks of emotional injury associated with human altercations are far greater.  Hmm, perhaps we should begin requiring rabies vaccinations at both ends of the leash!

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.