New Heartworm Testing Recommendations for Dogs

The National Center for Veterinary Parasitology (NCVP), the American Heartworm Society (AHS) and the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) have updated their heartworm testing recommendations for dogs. The specialists in these organizations recommend annual screening  with an antigen test as well as a microfilaria test on all dogs. This includes dogs who are on heartworm preventative year round. Here’s why:

Treatment for a dog with heartworm disease involves killing the adult worms that live in the heart and then killing off the immature microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. Traditionally, the approved adultacide melarsomine was used first followed by moxidectin or a similar drug to kill the microfilaria. The American Heartworm Association has the protocol outlined on their website.  Because of complications with thromboemboli when the adult worms are dying or the fact that some dogs cannot receive the adulticide therapy, some veterinarians turned to a ‘slow-kill’ method.  The ‘slow-kill’ involves long term therapy with one of the macrocyclic lactone preventatives such as ivermectin or milbemycin combined with the antibiotic doxycycline that suppresses production of microfilaria.

Unfortunately, there are drawbacks with using the ‘slow-kill’  therapy. First, the infected dogs produce antibodies against the heartworm antigen that interferes with antigen testing. One study showed fifty percent of the dogs tested will have false negative results to antigen testing. Second, these dogs continue to harbor heartworms that mosquitos may transmit to other animals. It is also feared that the slow-kill method has caused heartworms to become resistant to the preventatives.

For further information on heartworm disease and other animal parasites may be found at and


-Little, Susan. Symbiosis in parasitology: Heartworm recommendations updated. VETERINAY MEDICINE, Sept. 2014 Vol 109:9, pp. 290-292.

Wolves help Yellowstone Through Trophic Cascade

Nothing stirs up controversy like wolves.  In the western part of the United States where I live, their reintroduction was met with stiff resistance.  A few of the wolves released have been found dead, their bodies full of bullets. Unfortunately, the shooters may not fully understand that wolves and other predators are essential for the environment. Besides culling the weak, wolves change the behavior of their prey unleashing a myriad of effects. Through the ‘trophic cascade’, the wolves released into Yellowstone have actually affected rivers.  Please watch this amazing video titled, “How Wolves Change Rivers” to learn more.

Study Reveals Dogs Prefer Petting Over Praise

As we all know, dogs like petting. But do they like petting  better than praise? Erica Feuerbacher, a fellow and doctoral candidate from the University of Florida, Department of Psychology and Dr. Clive Wynnne, professor from Arizona State University teamed up to answer this question. The researchers set up three experimental groups of dogs and then measured their reaction to various combinations of petting and/or vocal praise during eight, 3-minute sessions. The first group contained shelter dogs interacting with strangers. Owned dogs interacting with strangers made up the second group. The third group contained owned dogs interacting with their owners.

Although the characteristics of each group were different, the results were always the same. All of them preferred petting over praise. And what was really interesting, is that they never seemed to get enough petting. The researchers stated, “dogs did not show any sign of satiation with petting across all eight sessions.” My own uncontrolled study with my dog confirmed this result. He always wanted more, especially when I was scratching the area in front of his tail.

Now, how do we apply this information to our own dogs? When you want to reward your dog, pet them. During obedience training, I have heard trainers tell handlers to praise their dogs for good behavior. Petting was discouraged as it ” made the dog needy.” In my experience, dogs trained under this praise method do not learn as quickly as dogs who receive petting and an occasion treat. Instead of making the praise the reward, use it as a bridge to petting. Think clicker training. Remember, dogs are like humans. Positive reinforcement is better than negative.

If you would like to learn more about how dogs think, check out the Canine Cognition Lab at Florida State University. Here’s the link:


Feuerbacker EN & Wynne CD. Shut up and pet me! Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) prefer petting to vocal praise in concurrent and single-alternative choice procedures. Behav Processes, 2014 Aug 27.


You Make The Diagnosis: Dental Problem In A Puppy

When I perform an examination on a puppy, I look closely at their mouth because puppies are prone to several painful dental problems.  Some of these are inherited which may get the puppy removed from breeding programs. Pictured below is the right side of a 10 week old large breed puppy. This little guy came in for vaccinations and a fecal check. All of his physical examination findings were ‘within normal limits’ except the mouth. Examine the image below and then answer the following question: What is wrong with this pup’s mouth? How will it affect his future health?

Dead deciduous tooth dog

Diagnosis: 1) Worn deciduous canine teeth with pulp exposure 2) Pulpitis of the lower deciduous canine tooth 3) Malocclusion

This puppy has three dental problems. First, see how the tips of both deciduous canine teeth are worn off? He has been chewing on something that wore away the tip of the crowns.  This exposed the pulp cavity. Second, the lower deciduous canine tooth is discolored. Instead of the normal healthy white color of the other teeth, this one is tan. If you look closely, you can see a pinkish color in the bottom of the tooth that signifies a serious problem with the pulp cavity. I am concerned that bacteria entered the pulp cavity when the tip was worn away and have caused on infection. Third, the lower deciduous canine tooth has indented the gingiva on the upper jaw between the third incisor and canine tooth. His lower jaw was too narrow for the upper jaw causing malocclusion.  Every time he closed his mouth, the lower deciduous canine teeth hit the upper jaw. This poor pup had a really painful mouth. He needed dental work right away to give him a pain-free mouth and to prevent long term dental problems.



Keep Paws Trimmed to Prevent Painful Matts and Dermatitis

When I examine a dog or cat with furry paws, I always look closely at the paws. I often find ingrown nails. dense mats of fur and dermatitis hiding under the fur. Pictured below on the left is a mat that I removed from a dog. The firm mat was stuck between the large central pad and the toes where the skin is a dark brown in color. The skin underneath was inflamed and painful. The dog limped on this leg.  After clipping the nails and trimming all the fur, the area between the toes was scrubbed, rinsed and dried. The dog walked out of the clinic without a limp!

      Paw with mat removed dermatitis

For dogs and cats with furry paws, it is important to check all four paws at least once a week. Keep the hair trimmed to prevent mats and infection. This will also limit the debris (kitty litter, dirt and leaves) that stick to the fur and subsequently are tracked around the animal’s environment.



Fashion Month – Julie The Chimp

Since September is fashion month, I decided to write about animal fashion. No, I don’t mean animal print fabrics or other animal inspired clothing for human wear.  Instead, I thought it would be fun to celebrate an animal who started her own fashion trend.

Julie is an adult chimpanzee who lives in the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust Sanctuary in Zambia. In 2010, researcher Edwin van Leeuwen from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics noticed that Julie had a long, stiff piece of grass hanging from her ear. She liked to place it in one or both ears when she was grooming, resting or playing. Before long, many of the chimps in her group starting doing it. Her son Jack was the first, followed by other chimps that had close relationships with Julie.  Even after her death, a couple of the chimps have continued the tradition.

I have no idea of the origin of her desire to do this nor the deeper meaning beyond this fashion flair.  But, I think she looks beautiful. The grass reminds me of earrings. Here’s a link to her picture:






Animal Hoarders

As a veterinarian, I believe it is appropriate that most of the attention regarding hoarding focuses on the animals that suffer in these deplorable situations. But the hoarders need help too. In 2013, animal hoarding was recognized as a psychiatric disorder. The cause is still under debate. One theory suggests that hoarding animals may be caused by neglect or abuse during childhood.  Because the child didn’t have a good relationship with their human family, they form excessive attachment to their pets. Another theory believes the hoarder uses animals to replace human relationships. It is based on the observation that many hoarders start this behavior after the loss of a significant other.

When a hoarding situation is discovered, the attention is focused on providing care for the animals. The animals are removed, given veterinary care and then rehomed if possible. But what happens to the hoarder? Prior to 2013, most received some sort of punishment that included a limit on future pets. Unfortunately, this treatment failed miserably. Without addressing the underlying mental health problem that caused the hoarding, many will abuse animals again.

As with most diseases, early detection is the key to dealing with animal hoarding. If you encounter a potential animal hoarder, please notify your local police department or humane society. You will be helping the hoarder as well as the animals!


-Cassidy, Karen L. What is animal hoarding? Is it like hoarding objects? Can people be cured. AADA.

-Soler, Paula Calvo. Animal hoarding isn’t just gross, it’s a recognized psychiatric disorder. To Your Health, Desert Counseling. August 8, 2014.


Labor Day Salute To Working Dogs

Since it is Labor Day, I decided to honor the working dogs. Pictured below are some wonderful canines on the job training to rescue avalanche victims, comforting patients, herding sheep and apprehending agitators. Although their duties differ greatly, they all  have one thing in common – they love their work. Enjoy!



Herding Dog