Ask the Vet

I hear this question on a daily basis! Many pet owners spend hours researching options by looking at pet food websites, reading blogs, asking friends and family for advice, and browsing the local pet store food aisle. As a result, the amount of information that is found is vast and overwhelming, so our clients often ask for our advice.

cat-eating-pet-foodHonestly, veterinarians are not trained in choosing a pet food. We are extensively trained in nutrition - i.e. what happens if a pet doesn’t get enough of a particular vitamin, what is that mineral used for in the body, what diseases have a nutritional component, how do we treat that condition, etc. Choosing a pet food can be as daunting to us as it is to a consumer, especially now that the overall number of pet foods in the marketplace has skyrocketed. So, how do we answer this question?

Our team of veterinarians review 5 different categories of information when evaluating a pet food company. And believe it or not, it doesn’t include an assessment of protein, ingredients, by-products or health claims! We first look at the company, decide if the company is one we can trust, and recommend to our clients, then we look at the individual diets to choose the best option for our patient from there.

Bloodsuckers! Disease carriers! Does the very thought of fleas crawling through the forest of your dog or cat’s coat seem disgusting to you? It should! Whenever I write about ectoparasites, my head begins to itch.

Fleas cause itching and discomfort for our pets, and for those unfortunate critters who have allergies to fleas, an infestation can result in copious hair loss and a massive secondary skin infection requiring (preventable) multiple veterinary visits and a battery of oral and topical therapies. Fleas suck blood and can infect your cat with cat scratch fever—it’s not just a song… Cat scratch fever is an infection that can be deadly to the elderly, organ transplant patients, people fighting cancer, or those with other diseases of the immune system. Living partners, roommates, couples, families, or any household that includes an immunocompromised person should use monthly flea and tick control for all pets in the home even if they never go outdoors. Don’t take a preventable health risk!

Dr. Rule's daughter and dog

Why Dr. Rule uses flea and tick prevention:
Natalie Rule and Margeaux the dog

Fleas also carry the cystic form of the tapeworm. Cats and dog will eat their fleas to relieve their itchiness. By ingesting a flea, the cystic form of the tapeworm develops into an adult in the GI tract of the host. The result: Little white worms crawling around on your cat or dog’s rear end.

Let’s consider the tick… another blood sucker. Ticks carry many, many diseases that can be transmitted to dogs and people. The primary offenders in our geographical area include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, babesia, and we think even more. When anaplasma bacterial organisms and Lyme spirochetes infect a dog at the same time, the consequences can be catastrophic. Biologically, the pathogens potentiate each other, resulting in a far worse situation than one infection alone. This is called a co-infection. Cats can also get tick-borne diseases, although this is not as common as the many we diagnose daily in our local dog patient population.

What product is best? There are so many. At Countryside Veterinary Hospital, we carry a number of options but not all of the available options. We have carefully chosen our preventatives to meet the needs of the most pets in our care. The answer to what to use depends on your household: Do you have one pet? Many pets? Live in a high tick area? Have a history of getting flea exposure in your pets? Do you have pets that wrestle or swim? Do you have children? Some households may even need multiple products.

dog desiDesi is a two-year-old black Puggle that has a tail that will not stop! Her owner, Emily, is a very good pet parent. She has brought Desi to all of her needed regular veterinary wellness visits here at Countryside Veterinary Hospital. She feeds Desi prescription T/D diet to keep tartar scraped from her teeth (Puggles are susceptible to dental disease), keeps her on regular monthly flea and tick preventative, and also gives her monthly heartworm prevention that kills both baby heartworms in the blood and intestinal parasites in the GI tract that can be transmitted to humans.

Desi is a love – she sleeps on the bed and licks mom’s face – a lot! Emily takes Desi on plenty of walks, mainly to local parks. The regular exercise is so good for this energetic dog! While Desi was out enjoying herself one day, she also picked up a parasite. This year, like every year, Desi’s owner brought in a fecal sample to her annual wellness exam.

The fecal sample looked normal and well-formed with no obvious evidence that she had any problems. But Desi’s results showed Giardia cysts and that she was ELISA positive (immune system response), with exposure to Giardiasis. Giardia is a protozoal parasite that can cause severe diarrhea in humans and dogs. As for that face licking… well, good thing we know now and we have treated Desi with a simple medication added to her food!

Regular fecal testing is very important. We don’t just look for evidence of intestinal worms, but we also look for protozoans, some of which can be transmitted to humans. If you and your pets live with a child, an elderly family member, or there is someone in your home who has had cancer treatment, don’t miss a fecal test – both your pet’s and your family’s health could depend on it.