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Healthy Paws: New Years Resolutions — Pet Edition

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 January and the time for new year resolutions. While you may have a few on your own list, have you thought about resolutions for your pet? Here we have a few ideas that you could aim to work into your 2019 routine, if you aren’t already doing so:

Tooth Brushing

Whether you have a cat or dog, setting a goal to brush their teeth on a regular basis will certainly pay off in 2019. How regular? The Veterinary Oral Health Council recommends daily brushing to disrupt the cycle of plaque mineralizing to hard tartar.

At minimum, brushing every other day is needed to make an impact in reducing tartar accumulation. New habits can be a bit scary for pets, so aim for only a few seconds of brushing at a time, then slowly work up to the whole mouth.

Focus on the outside of the teeth, that’s where all the tartar builds up, 60 seconds to clean should be enough to get the whole mouth.

Home Nail Trims

Keeping your cat or dog’s nails short can have many benefits. It can reduce damage in your home from scratching behavior, prevent in-grown or torn nails and save yourself the cost of grooming appointments.

New to trimming your pet’s nails or found them difficult in the past? There are several great online resources for how to slowly train your pet to enjoy nail trims via positive reinforcement training. Here are some nail trimming resources:

Exercise

You might be trying to hit the gym more often in 2019, but have you thought about your pet’s exercise too? Regular activity is important for your pet’s overall wellness.

Benefits include weight management, maintaining muscle mass, decreased stress and anxiety and cardiovascular health. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day — walking, running, swimming, training or play — but more is good too!

Training and Enrichment

Is 2019 the year you master a new hobby? Well, similar to how new activities make your life more exciting, they do the same for our pets.

Try starting with the basics — sit, stay, come, and leash manners — then progress to more advanced tricks. Positive reinforcement and consistency is key. Clicker training can also be a great tool for pet learning.

You would be amazed how much progress you can make with 5 minutes a day, plus you get the added bonus of creating a stronger bond with your pet. Don’t forget about your kitties either, they can learn tricks just like dogs.

Additional Resources:

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Healthy Paws: What Is That?! Incisive Papilla

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.

One of the most important topics studied in vet school is anatomy — as veterinarians, we need to know what is normal and what isn’t.

Most pet owners, on the other hand, haven’t spent countless nights studying every organ, vessel and protuberance found on a dog’s body. So it’s understandable that when an owner notices a less obvious anatomic structure for the first time, they may become alarmed and rush their beloved pet to the vet, fearing the worst.  These situations have inspired a new series for our column called, “What is that?!”

Maybe you’ve experienced this scenario before — your happy, fun-loving pet is playing and when she rolls on her back, you suddenly notice a firm, diamond-shaped lump on the roof of her mouth, just behind her front teeth. Panic bells start ringing.

But not so fast! This is actually a completely normal structure. It’s called the incisive papilla and every dog has one, though some may be more prominent than others. The incisive papilla contributes to the dog’s intricate and exceptional sense of smell.

A human’s primary sense is vision — we understand our environment best through visual pictures. Dogs, on the other hand, rely most heavily on their sense of smell. To put into perspective just how sensitive a dog’s sense of smell is, dogs have more than 200 million olfactory receptors. Humans only have about 5 million!

And it gets even more interesting. Dogs don’t just smell with their nose. They also have a vomeronasal organ, which helps detect chemical cues called pheromones. Pheromones are important for communication and passing social messages between dogs. The incisive papilla helps collect these cues and is connected to the vomeronasal organ.

So if you’ve ever lost sleep after noticing this bump on the roof of your dog’s mouth, don’t worry — you’re not the first and you won’t be the last! The incisive papilla is one of the most common normal anatomic structures that cause owners to scratch their heads and wonder, “what is that?!”

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Healthy Paws: Can I Catch Toxoplasmosis 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, and as such have made this a recurring topic.

This week we cover Toxoplasmosis… for a few reasons;

  • It’s a freaking cool parasite with a really neat life cycle and can manipulate the brain (what!?)
  • You can catch it from your pet
  • But you’re more likely to catch it while gardening…

Toxoplasma gondii is a microscopic protozoal parasite that is found in the environment. It’s main life cycle is between cat and mouse.

A mouse will become infected with Toxoplasma oocytes (eggs) in the soil and water. The oocytes hatch and the little baby Toxoplasma go to the rodents’ muscles and brain.

This is the cool part: Toxoplasma actually changes the way a mouse thinks and causes the mouse to become attracted to cat urine and makes them no longer afraid of cats. Basically, it makes the mouse a very easy target.

The cat eats the mouse and the baby Toxoplasma grows up in the digestive tract of the cat, so that new oocytes can be spread through the stool. In humans, this brain manipulation is being studied and there are suspected links between Toxoplasma infection and certain human psychoses.

Humans are “dead end hosts” of Toxoplasma, which means that the parasite can infect us, but cannot reproduce in our digestive tract like it can in the cat. Toxoplasma that is shed in a cat’s stool is infectious only after it’s been out of the cat for at least 24 hours.

This means scooping the litter box at the same time every day along with wearing gloves and washing hands thoroughly afterwards can decrease the risk of contracting Toxoplasmosis.

In certain cases, it can cause serious illness. Those that are more prone to the serious effects of Toxoplasma are YOPI’s: Young, Old, Pregnant or Immunosuppressed. If you or any of your family members fall into one of those categories, and you have a cat that hunts or goes outside, please discuss this with your physician.

This is especially true for pregnant women, as Toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects. Please note that if you are pregnant, you do not need to give up your cat. If you have concerns, please discuss this with your physician.

There are other much more common ways to get Toxoplasma and the two big ones are gardening and eating undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb, mutton and wild game as these are other common dead end hosts.

Wearing gloves and thorough hand washing after working in the garden are highly recommended and always cook your meat to 145 degrees or higher. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be peeled or washed thoroughly.

If your child likes to play in sandboxes, make sure to only play in ones that are covered when not in use, don’t allow your child to eat the sand and wash yours and your child’s hands thoroughly. After all, sandboxes are just big o’ litter boxes to a cat!

While Toxoplasma can be a serious illness for some people, there are ways to significantly reduce risk to you and your family. For more information, check out these additional tips from Worms and Germs Blog or the CDC.

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Healthy Paws: These Are A Few of My Favorite Things


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 that time of year again! Time to embrace the season and ponder on the best gift for your fur-kid! This year we polled our staff and have some of their pet’s favorite things!

Frankie’s Favorite Things

Audrey Hepburn’s Favorite Things

Biscoe & Peanut’s Favorite Things

Monty’s Favorite Things

Weebles’ Favorite Things

Moana & Heihei’s Favorite Things

  • Mealworms

And some more of our favorite things to help enrich the lives of our dogs and cats who graciously share their lives and snuggles with us.

Interactive Feeding/Activity Things

Books

Giving Back

Perhaps you have everything your pet may need and want (food, love, safety and enrichment), perhaps giving a gift/donation in your pets name to a rescue organization in need will warm your heart. Below are a few of the groups we love and work with regularly:

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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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