People who own pets live longer, happier, fuller lives. Our pets remind us of what it is to be wild, to be gentle, to be loyal, to trust, to flourish, to slow with age, to die. They connect us to something fundamental in our beings. We are the caretakers of that connection. For all our pets teach us, for all the love and joy they bring to our lives, they deserve the highest level of care – and they rely on us to provide it!
In order to ensure the quality of life we desire for our pets, it is important to maintain a schedule of preventative tests and treatments. These begin with monthly prophylactics for heartworms, fleas, and ticks that you can provide for you pet at home. Heart of Chelsea provides physical exams, laboratory testing, preventative treatments, dental care, and soft-tissue surgery to prevent disease and treat any areas of concern.
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Whether coming to Heart of Chelsea for an illness or an annual early detection visit, your pet will be given a thorough physical examination in order to assess their condition. This examination includes inspection of the ear canals and eardrums, evaluation of the eyes and your pet’s vision, inspection of the teeth, palpation of the lymph nodes, evaluation of the heart and lungs, examination of the fur and skin, and palpation of the abdominal organs. This will allow them to reveal any masses or abnormalities superficially or internally. Our examinations can detect a variety of illnesses and prevent many diseases, which may cause discomfort for your pet and become costly to treat.
Dog Age (years)
Human Age (years, based on weight)
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Vaccinations are a critical component to preventive care for your dog. Thanks to the development of vaccines, dogs have been protected from numerous disease threats, including rabies, distemper, hepatitis and several others. Some of these diseases can be passed from dogs to people — so canine vaccinations have protected human health as well. Recently, studies have shown that vaccines protect dogs for longer than previously believed. This is why Heart of Chelsea recommends annual antibody titers after the age of 2 to evaluate immune response in place of what may be an unnecessary vaccine. In general, your dog should always be protected from the following:
DA2PPV (Distemper, Adenovirus Types 1 & 2, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus Vaccine)
- Distemper: A highly contagious airborne viral disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system.
- Adenovirus: A highly infectious airborne virus affecting the respiratory system, and one of the causes of tracheobronchitis, also known as kennel cough. The vaccine also protects against the hepatitis virus type 1 and 2.
- Parainfluenza: A contagious airborne virus which produces a respiratory tract infection, also one of the causes of tracheobronchitis.
- Parvovirus: A highly infectious disease spread through ingestion of contaminated feces. The virus predominantly affects the intestines and white blood cells.
A deadly virus transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. In North America this could be a skunk, raccoon, bat or any number of infected mammalian vectors. This vaccine is required by New York State Law.
A highly contagious airborne bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract, and the significant component of tracheobronchitis. Other components are the Adenovirus-2 and the parainfluenza previously mentioned. Tracheobronchitis generally presents with an on-going dry, harsh, hacking cough and is commonly known as kennel cough.
The veterinarian may recommend additional vaccinations depending on the lifestyle of your pet. These vaccines relate to the following:
- Lyme Disease: A bacterial disease transmitted through the bite of a tick infected with the Borrelia bacteria. Lyme Disease can cause limping, swollen lymph nodes, joint and muscular pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever and in extreme cases can affect the kidneys and nervous system. It can take anywhere from one month to one year for symptoms to appear after a bite by an infected tick. If you plan to take your pet to a heavily wooded area or high tick area talk to your veterinarian about the Lyme vaccine or other preventative measures available. Lyme disease is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted to people.
- Leptospirosis: A bacterial disease often leading to liver or kidney failure. The disease is carried by rodents, “carrier” dogs or other wildlife and is transmitted through infected urine. If you plan to take your pet swimming in streams, lakes or other bodies of standing water, talk to your veterinarian about the Leptospirosis vaccine. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transferred to people.
- Giardia: A parasitic infection affecting the small intestine which causes odorous, pale, greasy or potentially bloody diarrhea. Infection is spread through ingesting the cyst form of the parasite from infected fecal matter or shared drinking water. If you are concerned about your pet contracting giardia talk to your veterinarian about the Giardia vaccine. Giardia is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transferred to people.
After two years of age we recommend running antibody titers to help prevent over-vaccinating your pet. These are blood tests that measure the amount of antibodies to a particular disease in the blood. If the titer shows a low level of immunity, added protection is necessary, and we will administer a booster vaccination.
Heartworm Disease Prevention and Testing
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease, caused by a blood-borne parasite. External symptoms of heartworm disease include shortness of breath, coughing and lethargy. Internal problems include potential damage to the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
Heartworms grow to be 6-14 inches long and can live for up to 5 years inside your pet’s heart and pulmonary arteries. During this time the adult females produce millions of offspring called microfilaria. Heartworm disease is transmitted via mosquitoes. The mosquito has a blood meal from an infected dog, the young microfilaria enters into the mosquito’s blood system, and over a 2 week period develops into infective larvae. The mosquito then deposits the infective larvae into the next dog it bites.
The infective larvae take 6 months to mature into adult heartworms. The worms damage the blood vessels and reduce the heart’s ability to pump sufficient blood to the other organs. The resulting damage can be irreversible.
It is much easier to prevent heartworm disease than it is to treat it. We recommend your pet start on a ONCE MONTHLY heartworm preventative beginning as early as 8 weeks old and have an annual heartworm blood test to detect exposure to any heartworm infections. If your pet is found to be heartworm positive, your veterinarian will advise an appropriate course of treatment. Your pet should be tested for heartworm disease every year, and must be tested yearly in order to receive uninterrupted protection from your prescription heartworm prevention.
Early Detection Blood Testing
Your pets can’t talk and instinctually cover up symptoms of illness as a natural survival method. Just like human medicine allows us to care for ourselves, our veterinarians can provide you with early diagnosis of potential disease before they become serious. Catching a disease early may add years to your pet’s life. Through your dog’s adult years (ages 2-7), you should expect to submit a blood sample annually. We will test the function of your dog’s liver, kidney and pancreas, as well as muscle and bone disorders. We will also perform a complete blood count, which will enable us to detect anemia, leukemia, inflammation or infections. These tests can lead to the diagnosis of treatable diseases such as diabetes. Performing these tests while your dog is young and presumably healthy gives us a baseline to compare with for the rest of your dog’s life. If your pet becomes ill, it will be much easier to interpret the results to make an accurate diagnosis of his or her condition.
Intestinal Parasites and Screening
We recommend an intestinal parasite screening at the time of each early detection visit annually, and then at least every 6 months. Guidelines set forth by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommend even more frequent screenings.
The fresh stool sample (1-2 teaspoons) from your dog that you bring us is tested for protozoan cysts and intestinal parasite eggs. We use an extremely sensitive zinc sulfate centrifugation technique to most effectively locate and identify any unwanted guests in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Parasites are extremely common in the city and are easily transferred through fecal matter left on sidewalks and dog runs. Some parasites are zoonotic, which means they may be transferred from your pet to humans. This creates the potential for human health risk. Children and elderly are at greatest risk if infected with parasites.
Fleas can cause a range of problems, including skin redness, excessive scratching, anemia in puppies, allergic reactions to the flea saliva (considered one of the most irritating substances on Earth) or contraction of diseases carried by fleas.
Adult fleas are dark brown, about the size of a sesame seed. They live their entire adult lives on your pet and feed on their blood. Fleas can be picked up in the environment or through contact with an infected pet.
The adult female flea will start laying eggs daily (up to 50 a day). These eggs fall from your pet, landing on the carpet, furniture, dog bedding, and anywhere your pet goes. The eggs hatch within 4 weeks into worm-like larvae that burrow deeper into soft furnishings, carpet, and the nooks and crannies of your home. There the pupae produce a silk like cocoon and take 10 days to become adult fleas which only emerge when they sense pressure, carbon-dioxide (from breathing) or body heat. Once a flea emerges from a cocoon it can only survive a few days without feeding. However, cocooned fleas can survive up to 9 months in the environment! An adult flea with an ideal host can have a lifespan of a few weeks. Fleas can also bite people.
It is much easier to prevent flea infestations than to treat them. We recommend a ONCE MONTHLY flea preventative for your pet beginning as early as 8 weeks old. If you find fleas on your pet, make an appointment with your veterinarian, who will recommend a course of treatment for your pet and your home. Remember for every flea you see on your pet there are hundreds more in your environment. Successful flea control means treating both your pet and your home.
It is important to start early with your pet’s dental health. We recommend brushing daily using a toothbrush and specially formulated enzymatic toothpaste for dogs to prevent the build up of plaque. If you find brushing difficult, dental rinses or chews are a better alternative in the fight against periodontal disease.
As your pet gets older it is important to have regular dental health check ups. This can be done at your annual appointment, or can be assessed at anytime.
- Plaque: Develops when bacteria attach to the teeth.
- Tartar / Calculus: Develops when minerals in the saliva combine with the plaque and harden.
- Periodontal Disease: Develops when tartar is not removed. Tartar begins to build up under the gums, and separates the gums from the teeth creating multiple pockets, which in turn allows more bacteria to grow. This can lead to loose teeth, abscesses, infection, bone loss and health problems affecting the heart, lung and kidneys, which can all be quite painful.
Progression of Periodontal Disease
- STAGE 1 - Gingivitis: The margin of attached gum is inflamed and swollen. Plaque can be seen on the teeth. Dental cleaning is needed within the next month to remove plaque buildup and prevent progression of dental disease. Home dental care is needed (click photo to enlarge).
- STAGE 2 - Mild Periodontitis: The entire gum is inflamed and swollen. The mouth is painful and odor is noticeable; tooth roots have lost up to 25% of their attachment. Bacteria begin to impact other body organs. Dental cleaning to remove calculus is needed as soon as possible. Home dental care is needed for future prevention (click photo to enlarge).
- STAGE 3 - Moderate Periodontitis: The gums are red and sometimes bleeding, damaged by infection and calculus. A sore mouth and or bad breath are evident. Heart valves and kidneys are exposed to bacteria and may be experiencing inflammation and damage. Dental cleaning is needed immediately to remove calculus, along with antibiotics and pain medications. Extractions are likely. Home dental care is needed for future prevention (click photo to enlarge).
- STAGE 4 - Severe Periodontitis: Chronic infection is destroying the gums, teeth and bone. Many teeth are loose. Bacteria are spreading through the body and heart, liver and kidneys are compromised. Pain is constant. Dental cleaning to remove calculus is needed immediately. Extractions, antibiotics, and pain medications will be necessary. Home dental care is needed for future prevention (click photo to enlarge).
If your pet has tartar it will be necessary for him or her to undergo an anesthetic procedure, where an ultrasonic scaling can be performed above and below the gum line to remove the tartar build up, followed by a thorough polishing. In some instances teeth extractions may be a necessary part of your pet’s dental health. Talk to your veterinarian about developing an appropriate dental care plan for your pet.
We highly recommend feeding your pet a high quality dog food with a relevant balance of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and fat. This will give your pet the energy they need, a shiny coat, bright eyes and excellent body condition. It is important to select a food based on your pet’s stage of life – puppy, maintenance or senior and to feed the proper amount at appropriate times during the day. If detected early, 75% of common diseases in dogs can be prevented by dietary modifications alone over a one-year period.
Pet food labels can be misleading and without really knowing what you’re looking at, or looking for, you may not even realize the differences among the wide variety of dog foods. Hill’s Pet Nutrition has a great resource for making sense of a pet food label that will help you make the right decision for your dog.
We’re here to help, so ask your veterinarian for specific diet recommendations for your pet.