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Healthy Paws: Can I Catch That From My Pet?

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Can I catch that from my pet? This is a common question we hear as veterinarians.

So, we’re going to make this a recurring topic. This week, we’ll cover some intestinal parasites.

Intestinal parasites are the most common infectious diseases that we diagnose and several have the potential to be transmitted to humans. Most of these parasites are transmitted through the feces of an infected animal.

So, whenever handling animal feces or touching potentially contaminated areas such as soil, outdoor sandbox or a litter box, thorough hand-washing and good personal hygiene are recommended.

Keeping your pet on a year-round parasite preventative that protects against some of these parasites, as well as yearly fecal screening for asymptomatic gastrointestinal parasite infections, are important to reduce infection risk.

Giardia

Giardia is the most common gastrointestinal parasite we diagnose and we diagnose it on a daily basis. If you’ve ever heard of a human with “Hikers Diarrhea”… welp, that was Giardia.

In general, this parasite is quite species specific, however there are some strains that can be transmitted to humans so it is best to handle all Giardia cases like they may be.

Roundworms

Roundworms can be transmitted in utero and via mom’s milk, as well as via fecal/oral transmission.

Humans are not the ideal host for this parasite, but when presented with a human the larval stages will make the most of it and attempt to migrate to the gastrointestinal tract. Instead , they end up in weird places and are a cause of partial blindness in children (as they are notorious about not washing their hands well and playing in sandboxes or dirt) as they like to migrate to the retina (back of the eye) instead.

Hookworm

Hookworm larvae can penetrate intact skin and then migrate to the gastrointestinal tract of dogs and cats; and while humans are not their primary host, they will attempt their life cycle.

This can lead to a very itchy skin reaction in humans called cutaneous larval migrans, which result from an intense immune reaction to the larvae as they try to migrate and then die under the skin.

Whipworms and Coccidia

Whipworms and Coccidia are not considered zoonotic parasites, meaning we really don’t see transmission to humans (well, there are rare reported cases). However, they are important parasites in dogs and cats (coccidia) and can often cause diarrhea.

Tapeworms

There are several types of tapeworms that we seen in our pets. By far the most common one we see in this area has a life cycle that requires the flea as an intermediate host; other strains of tapeworms require small rodents and herbivores as an intermediate host.

The vast majority of dog and cat tapeworms are of low risk for transmission to humans. That said there is a tapeworm called Echinococcus which is rarely seen in North America and is actually a reportable disease here.

The Echinococcus tapeworm rarely causes disease in dogs and cats, but it is easily transmitted to humans and can lead to large cysts within our internal organs that can lead to anaphylactic shock and death if ruptured!

For more information on these individual parasites and how they may affect you or your family, please visit: ​http://www.petsandparasites.org

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Healthy Paws: Halloween — The Recap

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Well, we couldn’t have asked for better weather last night for a little trick or treating! And we couldn’t have asked for better entries to our #caccostumecontest!

Above are just a few of the awesome costumed pet pictures that were submitted. Follow us on Instagram (@clarendonanimalcare) and facebook (@clarendonvet) to see all the entries and winners!

Now that everyone has way too much candy in their homes, let’s recap some of the many reasons we should keep it all away from our fur-kids:

  • Chocolate, raisins and xylitol are all toxic to our pets! Chocolate can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, cardiac arrhythmias and neurological symptoms; raisins can cause acute kidney failure and xylitol can cause acute liver failure!
  • Often, our pets are no good at moderation and eating lots of fat and sugar-filled candy can cause some pretty impressive gastrointestinal disturbances, but also trigger more severe issues like pancreatitis.
  • The wrappers can lead to physical irritation and obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract.
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Healthy Paws: Obesity in Our Pets — An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

A study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention found that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the United States were classified as overweight by their veterinarians in 2017.

Given that the average dog encountered at the park and the average cat seen peaking out through a window is more likely to be overweight than not, pet owners are developing a skewed perception of a healthy body weight.

Your dog or cat’s annual physical exam includes a standardized body condition score. Your veterinarian certainly isn’t trying to body shame your furry friend — we think they are just as cute with a few extra pounds and a set of love handles!

However, when you take into account all of the impacts obesity can have on your pet’s health, and the added cost to your pet’s health care as a result, those extra pounds are far from “cute.” If you are looking for the absolute best way to keep your dog or cat happy and healthy for as long as possible, the answer is to keep them lean.

Not only is a lean body weight what is best for your pet’s health, it is also what is best for your wallet — it is guaranteed to save you money on the cost of pet food and veterinary care in the long run.

The most effective way to get your pet to lose weight is to feed fewer calories. This means that you’ll buy fewer bags per year of that expensive pet food you’ve been budgeting for.

Also consider that obesity leads to diseases that decrease your pet’s quality of life and increase your cost of veterinary care. Arthritis, cruciate ligament rupture, intervertebral disk disease, respiratory disease, liver disease, diabetes and heat stroke are all more likely to occur in overweight patients.

All of these diseases can require pricey medications, surgeries and treatments to manage, and can cause a lot of stress for both you and your pet.

The consequences of obesity may sound daunting, but the good news is that your pet’s body condition is entirely within your control. Your dog or cat (hopefully) can’t open the pantry or fridge door themselves, and they rely on you to control their food intake.

Think twice before you share your snack with your pet — what is considered a “snack” for you could be more than their total daily caloric requirement.

A helpful comparison provided by Hill’s shows that one ounce of cheddar cheese for your 20 pound dog is the equivalent of the average woman eating one and half hamburgers. For a 10 pound cat, this would be the equivalent of a woman eating two and a half hamburgers.

The best way to have control over your pet’s body weight is to avoid table scraps altogether and stick to food and treats that have a known caloric content. The packaging of any reputable brand of food or treat will provide the number of kilocalories per cup of food or per treat, which makes it easier to stick to the caloric intake recommended by your veterinarian.

If you are the type of person who just can’t help but slip treats to your best bud when he is being extra adorable (which happens a lot), try measuring out a daily allotment and drawing from this pile throughout the day when you’re feeling inspired to do so. Using some self control will help keep your pets slim and trim, which will keep them happy, healthy and by your side for many more years to come.

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Healthy Paws: Cannabidiol — Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread?

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

We are frequently asked about CBD, or cannabidiol, particularly in the form of CBD oil and its various benefits. As this is still a fairly new product to the veterinary field, there is much we do not know. Anecdotally, it has been reported to aid in the management or treatment of numerous medical conditions.

Before we address its potential medical uses, a bit of background:

  • CBD is a cannabinoid, which is a class of chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in the brain to cause a variety of drug-like effects. The most well-known cannabinoid is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for the psychotropic effects of the cannabis plant.
  • CBD shares the same chemical formula as THC, but its molecules are arranged slightly differently.

  • While the cannabis plant has a higher percentage of THC, the hemp plant has a higher concentration of CBD — which is why hemp plants are the main source of most CBD products.
  • It’s thought that some of the potential psychological benefits of CBD may due to its action on serotonin and GABA receptors, which are well-known to be associated with behavioral modifying effects.

On the medical front, claims have been made that CBD can aid in the treatment of conditions such as epilepsy and anxiety. Another claim is CBD can help manage pain associated with arthritis or other orthopedic or neurological injuries, purportedly without the risk of the side effects or “high” associated with THC.

The FDA just recently approved a drug called Epidiolex, whose main ingredient is CBD, for aid in control of severe seizures. Many more studies are undoubtedly in progress.

While theoretically low-risk, potential side effects can include extreme lethargy or agitation, ataxia (stumbling, difficulty walking), increased anxiety, aggression, incontinence and lowered blood pressure.

An important factor to take into consideration is the legality of CBD. According to the DEA, any cannabinoid-related product is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act.

Even among experts there seems to be some ambiguity about the legality of possessing, selling or prescribing CBD. Virginia did recently pass HB 1251 that allows physicians to issue a written certificate for the use of cannabidiol and THC-A; however, at this time this does not apply to veterinarians. At the federal level, CBD is still considered illegal.

Additional Resources:

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Healthy Paws: Safe Disposal of Medicines and Preventing Environmental Contamination

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

While research continues, it is becoming clear that chemical pollutants are impacting animal health, human health and the environment.

Human-made chemicals flow into streams and waterways where it comes into contact with wildlife. Wildlife interacts with these products in unpredictable ways. Pharmaceuticals are in the mix of contaminants arriving from various places like wastewater treatment plants, drains of manure fertilized fields, washed off livestock farms, landfills and septic systems.

Any household or farm product has the potential to become an environmental contaminant. One of the largest concerns is also the easiest to source and reduce, unused drugs that are flushed down the drain.

The pollutants are dangerous to fish, insects and other life with the potential to kill, prevent reproduction, change behavior or alter appearances.

Potential human health concerns are unknown because the pharmaceutical dosage in waterways is low. However, research shows that antimicrobial concentrations in wastewater may be high enough to create selection pressure and harm beneficial microbes.

Antibiotic resistance is also a big concern. Thousands of pharmaceutical compounds, including animal-use drugs, are used in the U.S.

Along with current research and studying the ability of wastewater treatment plants to remove pharmaceuticals, we as veterinarians and clients of veterinarians have a role and responsibility to dispose of unused drugs properly to reduce the risk of environmental contamination as much as possible.

The AVMA and FDA have developed guidance on how to get rid of unwanted drugs. The best choices for disposal of unused or expired medications are the following:

  • Medicine take-back options
  • Disposal in the household trash
  • Flushing certain potentially dangerous medicines in the toilet

For more information on these options, what is available in your area, and the potential environmental impact of flushing medicines please visit this FDA web-site.

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Healthy Paws: Summers End

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

With the unofficial end of summer this week, it’s time to look at what changes and challenges fall brings to our furry friends.

Most notably, school has started and the weather will start to cool. This combination generally brings about school and home improvement projects, which also creates an smorgasbord of inappropriate things for our pets to ingest.

Cats tend to go for shiny objects as well as string-type things. Dogs, well, they might go for just about anything — but we’ve personally seen them ingest carpet that was being ripped up, nails and many a kids art project. Glues, paints and markers can cause upset stomachs and other toxicity.

Antifreeze is highly toxic to both cats and dogs. Generally, cats are known to be particularly attracted to its taste. Antifreeze can cause seizures, severe kidney failure and ingestion is often fatal if not treated rapidly and aggressively.

The use of rodent traps and poisons increases in the fall as well. Products used to kill small rodents are toxic to both cats and dogs and can lead to neurologic dysfunction or bleeding problems, depending on the product used.

Ticks and fleas are just as active through the fall in this area! They don’t look at the calendar and because we don’t get multiple hard freezes in a row even during the winter they never actually go away. In fact, the fall tends to be the time of year we see fleas and tick-borne illness in our patients the most frequently.

This may be because pets spend more time outside when it’s nicer out but also it’s easy to think that because it’s cooler it’s okay to stop using preventives. This may hold true much farther north, but in our neck-of-the woods it’s best to use preventives year-round.

Mushrooms also start to come out in the fall — and while most are non-toxic, there are a small handful that are very toxic. It’s best to steer clear of all wild mushrooms. If you’ve seen your pet ingest a mushroom, please contact ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435) and your veterinarian.

For information on toxic plants in general — ASPCA Animal Poison Control has a great website resource.

This recent sweltering heat definitely makes us appreciate the upcoming cooler seasons — Have fun and be safe as we start to transition to fall!

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Healthy Paws: Dog Park 101

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

The dog park is a super fun place to bring your puppy for exercise and socialization with other dogs, but there are some things to keep in mind before heading out to the park with your pup.

First of all, not all dogs should go to a dog park:

  • Dogs that are under 4 months of age are too young. Dog parks put them at risk for contracting infectious diseases and parasites. Young puppies can also be at higher risk for injury when playing with older and stronger dogs. If a puppy has a bad experience at the dog park, they can also learn to be afraid of other dogs. That said, socialization for puppies is very important for their development, but best to introduce them to dogs you know well (friends, family or neighbors) and in one-on-one or smaller settings or at a puppy kindergarten class.
  • Dogs that are reactive around other dogs should keep away from the park. Reactive behavior (growling, biting or lunging) is a sign of fear in dogs. If a dog is acting this way towards other dogs in a park, this means they are scared and want to be away from the dogs. If these signs are ignored, this can progress to causing a fight and injuries between dogs and ultimately worsen their fear long term. Some dogs may do better with dogs their own size, if this is the case, look for parks with a “small dog” and “big dog” area.
  • Dogs that cannot be let off a leash should stick to walks. When dogs interact off-leash they are able to exhibit normal canine behavior. Being on leash can cause a dog to feel restricted and can limit normal canine interaction, potentially leading to stress and fear.
  • Female dogs in heat should take a break from the dog park. This is to avoid unwanted attention from male dogs, particularly intact males, as this could lead to an accidental pregnancy.
  • Dogs that are sick should stay home and recover. This may seem pretty obvious, but dogs that are showing gastrointestinal symptoms or coughing, runny nose, or excessive sneezing, could have infectious diseases they could spread to other dogs.
  • Dogs that are not up to date on vaccines should wait until they get all of their shots. If you aren’t sure if your dog has all of the vaccines it needs for the park, reach out to your veterinarian for advice.

Before you head to the Dog Park:

  • Make sure your dog is trained in some basic commands — most importantly a “come when called” command so you can always redirect your dogs attention and get them to come to you when needed.
  • Check the weather. Prolonged exercise in hot temperatures can cause heat stroke in dogs, even if they have water available. If it’s a particularly warm day, plan to go to the dog park in the early morning or after it cools off in the evening to avoid excessive heat.
  • Consider bringing a few helpful items — including water, ball or toys for fetch, and poop bags, in case these aren’t available at the park. Just know that toys will likely be shared and may go missing — so don’t bring anything you or your dog is attached to.

Basic Dog Park Etiquette:

  • Intervene when play between dogs gets too rough or a pack is ganging up on a dog. This is best done by simply calling your dog away to redirect their attention.
  • Pick up all of the poops and dispose of properly.
  • Don’t let your dog hump another dog… it’s just not nice and a little awkward for everyone.
  • Take off the leash — that’s the point, right? Most parks have convenient double gates that allow for easy leash removal.
  • Pay attention! It’s best to avoid talking or texting on your phone and just enjoy the view of your pup having a great time with his or her friends. If you are distracted you could not be aware of tense situations brewing and miss an opportunity to intervene and avoid problems between dogs.
  • Don’t carry your dog around the park. This is a very unnatural way for dogs to interact and can lead to fear and reactivity. Picking up your dog can also tempt other dogs to jump up on you, a very bad situation overall. If your dog doesn’t do well on all fours, then it’s best to leave the park and try again another day.

Avoid having treats or food. Dogs will smell it and you might have more friends than you want following you around. Also, some dogs have food allergy, while others are reactive to other dogs when food makes an appearance, so best to leave the food out of your dog park experience.

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Healthy Paws: Are Grain Free Diets Good for Pets?

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

We have been asked a lot recently about our take on grain free diets and a possible link to dogs developing a serious heart condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).

There’s still a lot of unknowns out there — but here is what we do know:

About two years ago cardiologists a the veterinary school at UC Davis started seeing an uptick in the number of golden retrievers with DCM and started noting that most of these dogs were on a grain free diet. They also noticed that many of these dogs had low taurine levels (an important amino acid, whose deficiency has been linked to DCM in cats and dogs).

The possible relationship between diet and DCM was also noted in 2017 by the Morris Animal Foundation, which is currently undergoing a huge study involving 2,000+ golden retrievers for their Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

Then, last month the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine put out a notice that they were also going to start investigating the possible link between grain free diets and DCM in dogs that are not typical in their presentation or genetic susceptibility. This led to a bit of a firestorm of publicity and was picked up by news outlets like NBC and the New York Times… and then lots of questions by concerned pet parents.

The best article out there currently is written by the veterinary nutritionist at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Lisa Freeman. She excellently goes into what we know, what we don’t know and things we can be doing. You can find her article here.

Additionally, local veterinary cardiology group Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates, has put up a statement on their website with guidance for pet owners.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pets food, about DCM or your pets general health. It’s what we’re here for!

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Healthy Paws: Leptospirosis

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

It’s finally summer time, and nothing means summer quite like playing in puddles, creeks and rivers. But keep in mind that your pup isn’t the only creature that loves fresh water.

Leptospirosis is a bacteria that is on the World Health Organization’s list of Top 10 most important emerging infectious diseases and it thrives in fresh water in warm, humid environments.

It is usually thought of as a tropical disease that is found in other countries close to the equator. Unfortunately, however, our weather here in the United States is becoming warmer and wetter, and public health officials are concerned that it will become more of a problem in the US than it is already is.

The most common times for leptospirosis to be contracted are in the mid-summer through early fall, and after flooding or heavy rains. Confirmed cases of canine Leptospirosis are not uncommon in the DC area. We have even had some outbreaks of human leptospirosis in this area.

It is spread through the urine of infected mammals such as raccoons, deer, rodents (especially city rats and opossums in urban environments), farm animals and dogs.

The most common route of exposure is by drinking contaminated fresh water. Leptospirosis can also enter the bloodstream through cuts in the feet or legs, and it can be found in wet, shaded grass as well. In addition to making your pet very sick, Leptospirosis can be spread to you or your family.

Typically, lethargy, fever and loss of appetite are the first signs that we see of Leptospirosis, but in serious cases, we can also see vomiting, diarrhea and even liver, kidney or respiratory failure. Death can result in those that are very sick.

Treatment means a long course of antibiotics, and in severe cases, hospitalization at a critical care facility may be required. Leptospirosis can be difficult to diagnose in animals and humans.

Veterinarians take Leptospirosis very seriously and fortunately there is a good vaccine for it. Leptospirosis has many different serovars, and the vaccine that we carry here protects against the 4 most common disease-causing serovars in the United States.

The vaccine requires two boosters that are about 3 weeks apart, and then a yearly booster after that.

Other forms of prevention involve avoiding fresh water: creeks, puddles, rivers, and lakes, and avoiding wet shady grass next to bodies of water. Leptospirosis can be contracted by eating infected carcasses, which is another great reason to keep your pooch on the leash while on those wonderful long walks in the woods.

Historically, dogs that contracted Leptospirosis were field/hunting/working dogs as those were the dogs in the most contact with wildlife. However, across the United States that demographic has changed, and dramatically. Now most cases are seen in dogs that live in urban environments and are under 30 pounds (presumably because they were the least likely, historically, to be vaccinated and increased exposures to small urban rodents).

If your own dog has been diagnosed with Leptospirosis, please take precautions at home. Avoid contact with your dog’s urine, and if you have to clean up in the house, wear protective gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

Administer the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your veterinarian. Avoid walking your dog near bodies of water or places that other dogs congregate, to minimize the spread of Leptospirosis to other pets.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions!

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Healthy Paws: Ensuring a Safe Independence Day for the Fur-Kids of the Family

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

A good rule of thumb is that your dogs and cats likely don’t want to watch the fireworks with you and should not be around those backyard/neighborhood displays.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but we see far too many cases of injuries, burns and ingestion of the toxic substances found in many fireworks. Additionally, the sounds, smells and sights can be downright terrifying for some.

Noise phobias, especially, can be very distressing (to both owner and fur-child) and while many animals may just get a little anxious with the sound of fireworks — some go into an all-out distressed panic.

If you know that your pet is noise-phobic please have a discussion with your veterinarian about the use of anti-anxiety medications, sedatives and non-pharmacologic strategies to manage noise-phobias… NOW (don’t wait until right before the festivities!); and have a safe, quiet and escape-proof place to keep your pet.

Additional considerations and tips for a safe 4th with your fur-kids are below:

  • Keep your pets safe and indoors!
  • Have your pets identified — make sure they have a collar with an identification tag and/or a microchip that is up to date on its registration.
  • Resist feeding cook-out/table scraps… many pets do not tolerate dietary change, and these foods can lead to inflammation of the stomach, intestine and pancreas; and some items may require surgical removal (corn cobs, cooked rib bones, skewers, etc.)!
  • Glow sticks and citronella candles/repellants are also irritating to your pet’s GI tract and should be kept away from them
  • Overheating, stress and anxiety are common issues seen with pets in these situations. While celebrating the 4th is fun for most of us bipedal human folk, our fur-kids have no idea what’s going on other than that their normal routine just got thrown out the window and we expect them to be OK with that.
  • Our pets are very sensitive to the effects of alcohol — so please don’t give them any. It’s not cute to see them vomiting, having seizures or going into respiratory arrest from alcohol intoxication.
  • Don’t assume your pet knows how to swim. If you’ll be spending your day pool-side on a boat or at the beach/lake/other large body of water, be sure you are watching your pet at all times and have a life-preserver for them to keep them safe.

Keep these tips in mind, and we hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th of July! And while we hope you don’t need it — information on a few of the local 24/7 veterinary emergency hospitals can be found here.

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Healthy Paws: How the Opioid Epidemic is Affecting Veterinary Medicine

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

The opioid epidemic has been in the news quite a bit recently and for good reason.

While opioid and other prescription drug abuse is of significant concern on the human side, its effects are spilling over into veterinary medicine.

If you have a pet on an opioid pain medication, or drug of concern, you may have been contacted by your veterinarian recently about changes to how Virginia is handling those prescriptions from veterinarians.

As of July 1, 2018, veterinarians in the state of Virginia will be required to participate fully in the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which is a 24/7 database containing information on “dispensed covered substances,” which primarily pertains to controlled drugs and “drugs of concern,” which are defined as “drug or substance where there has been or there is the actual or relative potential for abuse.”

With these new guidelines, veterinarians may elect between not dispensing any controlled drugs or drugs of concern from their office, prescribing only for a single 7-day course, or registering as a dispenser of controlled drugs and drugs of concern.

Additional Virginia regulations on veterinarians with respect to the prescribing of chronic covered substances includes a mandatory re-check in within 2 weeks of starting a covered substance and mandatory physical exams at least every 6 months.

If you have a pet on chronic, controlled pain medications, please contact your veterinarian to come up with a plan to keep everyone in compliance with the new regulations, and to reduce the risk of lapse in pain control.

  1. What is the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP)?

Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) is a 24/7 database containing information on dispensed covered substances (see definitions below for information on covered substances). The primary purpose of the PMP is to promote safe prescribing and dispensing practices for covered substances by providing timely and essential information to healthcare providers.

Law enforcement and health profession licensing boards use the PMP to support investigations related to doctor shopping, diversion, and inappropriate prescribing and dispensing.

  1. What are the PMP reporting requirements for an individual veterinarian?

To review the legislation, SB226, with the amendments highlighted click here. This legislation requires that all veterinarians report the dispensing of covered substances for a course of treatment to last more than seven days. Please note that the amendments become effective on July 1, 2018.

The Code of Virginia states the following:

54.1-2519. Definitions.

“Covered substance” means all controlled substances included in Schedules II, III, and IV and all drugs of concern that are required to be reported to the Prescription Monitoring Program, pursuant to this chapter.

Note: The definition for “Covered substance” was amended in HB1556 and is effective on July 1, 2018. The amended definition will state the following: “Covered substance” means all controlled substances included in Schedules II, III, and IV; controlled substances included in Schedule V for which a prescription is required; naloxone; and all drugs of concern that are required to be reported to the Prescription Monitoring Program, pursuant to this chapter.

54.1-3456.1. Drugs of concern.

A. The Board may promulgate regulations designating specific drugs and substances, including any controlled substance or other drug or substance where there has been or there is the actual or relative potential for abuse, as drugs of concern.

Drugs or substances designated as drugs of concern shall be reported to the Department of Health Professions and shall be subject to reporting requirements for the Prescription Monitoring Program established pursuant to Chapter 25.2 (§ 54.1-2519 et seq.).

B. Drugs and substances designated as drugs of concern shall include any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains any quantity of the substance tramadol or gabapentin, including its salts.

Drugs and substances designated as drugs of concern shall not include any non-narcotic drug that may be lawfully sold over the counter or behind the counter without a prescription.

Note: Gabapentin, a Schedule VI controlled substance, is currently the only drug of concern that must be reported to the PMP. In addition, the dispensing of naloxone must also be reported.

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Healthy Paws: Blue the Elder Dog

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Written by and shared with the permission of Clarendon Animal Care client Sonya Barsness

Sometimes being a Revisionary Gerontologist can get me down. There are a lot of things that need to change in how we see people as they grow older and grow with dementia and how we support them. The negative, deficit-based, overly medical paradigm is so pervasive and so deep.

What to do? Sigh. I get very frustrated, and then a little despondent.

And when that happens, I watch videos of capybaras babysitting puppies (seriously, look it up). That makes me smile, and then the happy hormones sustain me.

I also happen to have a source of animal happiness living with me, and I go to him when I am in need of rejuvenation. His name is Blue.

Blue is thirteen and a half, so he is an elder dog.

Blue is an Australian Shepherd, very smart, tennis-ball obsessed, beautiful, soft, afraid of large black dogs and children, very fond of loud sighs, has a great “side-eye” and is the strangest combination of serious and silly that I have ever witnessed.

Blue also has diabetes, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, arthritis, is nearly deaf and mostly blind.

And he is the best dog he has even been, because of all these things that make him who he is.

As Blue has grown older, he has taught me a lot about aging and living. Here are some of the things I have learned.

1. Blue is still him. And he is changed.

Blue will always be Blue. And each day he also evolves into something new. Both are true.

2. Focus on strengths, not just weaknesses.

I realized that, when I was talking about Blue recently, I was only talking about his “deficits” — his diabetes, his trouble moving around, his lack of hearing and vision.

But that is not all that is Blue. Blue is many other things too. And those things are pretty great.

3. Curiosity never gets old.

As a puppy, Blue was very mischievous.

At the time, I probably did not appreciate it very much. But now, I love to watch him be curious. It is the essence of his spirit.

4. All behavior has meaning.

We hear this said about people living with dementia, in particular, but this certainly applies to each one of us.

Our actions often speak louder than words. Sometimes we need to “listen” to what someone is telling us without words.

In this picture, we were on day 10 of an RV trip, and Blue started sitting on the table in the RV.

At first I thought we had entirely broken his spirit on this RV trip. But then I realized he was tired of being on the floor, where he could not see anything from the confines of the RV. He wanted to see what was out there. So he took matters into his own hands.

5. There is always room for play.

As a herder, Blue always loved playing with tennis and soccer balls.

We recently learned, after him getting clocked in the head a few times, that he couldn’t see the ball very well. So now we play differently.

He still brings us no fewer than 5-6 tennis balls to remind US to make room for play.

6. Enjoy simple pleasures.

This winter we stayed at a mountain cabin. It was still chilly — the mornings were in the 30’s. But we had such a beautiful view from the deck that we would bundle up and have our coffee out there each morning.

Blue joined us too.

He developed a habit in which he would go out to the deck, wait for us to place him in the chair, and snooze in the early sun for several hours.

He did not care about where we were or what we were doing.

He was unfazed by the cold.

He just wanted to be basking in the sun.

I was amazed by how peaceful he looked. The picture of contentment. And when he was done, he would bark for us to take him down from the chair and go inside.

7. Take time for rest, and when you do it, do it well.

8. Interdependence is not all bad.

Blue has always been fiercely independent. I have called him a “loophole” dog because, ultimately, he finds a way to do what he wants to do.

However, he has leaned into his increased dependence on us, and waits for us to carry him up and down the stairs, or lift him onto the couch.

And, we so depend on him for his love. And, how he makes me laugh at least 20 times a day because he is so ridiculous. And, because he is now such a cuddle-bunny.

And, because a Revisionary Gerontologist sometimes just needs Blue the Elder Dog to help her bask in pure joy.

Maybe this brought you some joy too.

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Healthy Paws: It’s National Pet Week

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has declared May 6-12 National Pet Week (but, really, we think of every week is pet week)! They’ve listed seven steps towards a happier, healthier pet:

1. Choose well, commit for life — adding a pet to the family should be a step that is taken seriously and with plenty of thought ahead of time. Not every dog or cat (or fish or turtle, for that matter) may be the right fit, and at the right time, so it’s important to consider what you’re looking for ahead of time.

Here is a tool to help find the best cat or dog type based on your “wish list” and lifestyle.

2. Socialize now. New doesn’t have to be scary — Inadequate socialization as a puppy or kitten can lead to behavioral issues later in life. We highly recommend following the Puppie’s Rule of 12 for things, people and experiences to expose your puppy to prior to 12 weeks of age (and, even if your dog is over 12 weeks of age, it’s never too late to start).

Dogs aren’t the only ones that benefit from socialization — early exposure of a variety of people, animals and experiences can be very beneficial for kittens as well — we especially love the idea of Dr. Sophia Yin’s Kitten Kindergarten.

3. Nutrition and Exercise Matter — Obesity is the number one health issue among our patient population, both dogs and cats. Calorie control and exercise are both key in controlling weight. To read more on body condition scoring check out our previous article.

4. Love your pet? See your vet!  Because animals are very adept at hiding signs of illness until it is more advanced, it is important to check in with a veterinarian at least annual (and many veterinarians recommend biannual exams in senior pets).

Additionally, often times when we see our pets every day it can be a bit more difficult to pick up on changes in their behavior, attitude, appetite and habits (Dr. Gloor found this out personally this week when she brought her previously 150 pound dog into the office and discovered he’s now 170 pounds!).

5. Pet population control: Know your role — We’re very fortunate in our area to have exceptionally responsible pet owners. However, in many areas of the country, thousands of dogs are homeless or even euthanized due to pet overpopulation.

Spaying/neutering your pet and/or taking appropriate precautions with an unsterilized pet (no off-leash activities, only supervised play with other pets) are very important in helping to control pet over-population.

6. Emergencies happen, be prepared — Hundreds if not thousands of dogs have been separated from their families in recent years during natural disasters in various parts of the country.

It’s important to be prepared in the event of an emergency in order to maximize the chances of you and your pet reuniting in the event of separation during such an event. Here’s a link to an article we wrote previously about disaster preparedness.

7. Give them a lifetime of love — This should be self-explanatory as pets bring so much joy and enrichment into our lives that it’s not usually difficult to return the favor.

However, as they age, it’s not uncommon that our pets may develop some age-related conditions that can try our patience (fecal or urinary incontinence, dementia leading to increased vocalization and anxiety, arthritis-related pain that can make it more difficult to get around, to name just a few).

While these often cannot be cured, there often are ways to manage them. If your pet is experiencing any “age-related” issues we recommend talking to their veterinarian to see if there are measure that may be taken to improve quality of life (both your pet and yours!).

Additional Resources:

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Healthy Paws: Summer Tips

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Though summer is technically almost 2 months away, with the weather we’ve had the last few days it already feels like it! Below is a little jumpstart on things to think about before the heat is here to stay for awhile.

The Weekend Warrior — Just like most people, intermittent and inconsistent exercise can lead to overexertion in our pets! If being active isn’t part of your pet’s regular routine, going for that 6.5 mile hike up Old Rag can lead to overexertion, overheating and injury.

Be cognizant of your pet’s limits and if you’re planning a big hike or a long run, doing a bit of training ahead of time will go a long way in preventing injury.

High-rise syndrome — As it gets nicer outside, apartment cats are more likely to be let out on the balcony and windows are left open. While we always tease that cats have nine lives and are deft when falling… creating a safe balcony and making sure windows are securely screened is paramount to reducing the risk of injury or death related to a fall.

Heat Stroke and other heat-induced maladies — The hottest part of the day tends to be from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and is the worst time of the day to be doing outdoor activities with your pet. Long walks, jogging and hiking should be done early in the morning or in the evening.

Certain breeds of dogs (and cats!) are more sensitive to the heat than others — breeds with “smooshed faces” (i.e. Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Himalayan and American Shorthair cats) are already predisposed to respiratory problems/difficulty… and when it gets hot those problems can be far more apparent.

Additionally, you should NEVER leave your pet alone in a parked car. Even with the windows open that vehicle can become furnace-like, and quickly!

Sun & Contact Burns — Pets can get sunburn too! Dogs and cats that have thin hair or light skin are at increased risk for developing sun-induced skin cancer. The ears and nose tend to be the most susceptible. Talk to your veterinarian about using sunscreen/sunblock on your pet.

Additionally, our dogs and cats can develop painful burns on their feet from walking on hot pavement. Minimizing exposure to hot pavement, walking in the morning and evening and using booties can reduce that risk.

Swimming — Swimming can be a great way to cool off for both you and your dog… however not all dogs know how to swim well! Be sure to stay within the comfort level of your dog and to use a life vest if needed.

Additionally, be aware that not all bodies of water are ideal to be swimming in. Certain gastrointestinal parasites, such as Giardia, flourish in streams and small bodies of water.

Bathing & ear cleaning after swimming, especially if the water source is not ideal, can also help prevent skin and ear infections.

Fleas, Ticks and other Bugs — Fleas and ticks start to come out in full force as it gets warmer. And just because your cat is indoors doesn’t always protect them from these critters as doorways are something they do not respect.

Be sure to keep up regular use of your flea and tick preventive as that is their primary defense against many diseases, including Lyme.

Additionally, other bugs (flies, mosquitoes, etc..) can bite and cause allergic reactions. If you have a pet that seems sensitive to bug bites, be sure to chat with your veterinarian about a Benadryl dose you can safely use in your pet.

Grooming — Shaving can seem like a quick/convenient way to cool your pet down — but remember that fur helps protect your fur-kid from sunburn.

Cats should generally only be shaved if they’re matted or not grooming adequately — not for the heat.  And certain breeds of dogs with “double coats” (e.g. Huskies, Akitas) should NOT be shaved as their coat actually helps keep them cool in the heat.

Hydration — Finally, just as with us, hydration for our pets is paramount in the warm weather. Be sure to have clean water available and accessible at all times for both you and your pet.

We hope you and your fur-babies have a safe and enjoyable summer!

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Healthy Paws: Did You Know… ?

Healthy Paws
Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

This week we thought we’d present a few fun facts about the amazing furry creatures many of us share our lives with: cats and dogs.

Dogs are omnivores and have nutritional needs more akin to humans than their ancestral relatives. This has a lot to do with the fact that humans domesticated them about 15,000 years ago and lived in very close association with humans, giving them a LOT of time to acclimate to our diet. As such, their metabolism and digestive function is genetically different than it was prior to domestication.

Cats, on the other hand are obligate carnivores…and while they are “domesticated” and that process started somewhere between 9,000-12,000 years ago, they have no genetic difference with their dietary needs or metabolism than their wild counterparts.

Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans’ orders; in true feline fashion, they choose to take part in the human-cat interaction.

This is in contrast to the history of dogs and humans, where they have bred over thousands of years to respond to orders, perform specific task and have specific physical traits. Cats, it seems, never needed to learn anything — which explains a LOT about many of their behaviors and “cattitude.”

Cats and dogs have 3rd eyelids! On the lower, inside corner of the eye you may have noticed your cat or dog has a membrane/structure there — this is the 3rd eyelid and it is also called the nicitans. The gland that sits under this eyelid produces about 2/3 of all the tears that cats and dogs make and a “Cherry Eye” is when this gland prolapses, or “falls out of place”.

Female AND male cats and dogs have mammary glands and nipples… however, not all dogs and cats have the same number of glands or nipples.

Most dogs have 5 sets of mammary glands (and 10 nipples) — however that can range from 4-6 gland sets (and 8-12 nipples); and most cats have 4 sets of mammary glands (and 8 nipples) — but that too can range from 3-4 gland sets (and 6-8 nipples).

Sometimes they also have “supernumerary” nipples — or an extra nipple on a single gland, which is of no clinical significance.

Cats sleep for about 2/3 of their lives. When your cat is 12 years old, it will have been awake for only 4 years of its life! Cats also spend about half their waking time grooming… so that 12 year old cat will have spent about 2 of those awake years grooming (and likely the other 2 years intentionally ignoring you, judging you and insisting you feed/pet/devote all your attention to them).

Cats purr at a frequency that promotes tissue healing! Domestic cats purr at a frequency of about 26 Hertz, in a range that promotes tissue regeneration. Purring is most often are associated with positive social situations: nursing, grooming, relaxing, being friendly.

That said purring is also soothing, or self-soothing, as cats also purr in stressful or painful situations (perhaps to help with the healing).

About 1/3 of a dog’s brain mass is devoted to smell, compared with just 5% of a human’s brain! But — they only have about 1700 taste buds, compared to about 9000 in humans… no wonder they don’t mind eating gross things!

Have a topic you’d like us to write about? Email us ([email protected]). We want to tailor these posts to the topics that interest you the most.

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