Monthly Archives

April 2013

Lets Talk Canine Heartworms

By | Pet Health

What are canine heartworms?

Canine heartworms, Dirofilara immitis, are dangerous parasites that can infect your dog, greatly affecting your pet’s life span. Dog heartworms are actual worms that live in your pet’s heart. As you can imagine these worms fill the chambers of the heart and cause the heart to enlarge because of impaired blood flow. The presence of adult canine heartworms, if left untreated, leads to congestive heart failure. Even though I am referring to these worms as Canine (Dog) Heartworms, they can also occur in cats, which could be another blog post.

How can my dog become infected with heartworms?

Canine heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. A mosquito bites an infected animal and then is an intermediate host, spreading the parasite when it bites other animals. Heartworm disease is more prevalent in warmer climates but has been diagnosed in all 50 states.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in infected dogs.

Unfortunately, by the time your pet exhibits symptoms, he or she may already be in the later stages of the disease. Some symptoms include; coughing, intolerance to exercise, loss of appetite, and lethargy. If your pet is not on a current heartworm prevention program and displays any of these symptoms, it is highly advised to have your animal examined by your veterinarian. If your dog is already in the advanced stages of heartworm disease, and their health is declining,your pet might not be a candidate for treatment.

Testing my pet for heartworms

Most veterinarians recommend annual testing for canine heartworms. It involves a simple blood draw, usually from the front leg, of your pet. Not a lot of blood is required for testing, so it is considered to be a minimally invasive procedure.

Treatment for canine heartworms

Most people think of deworming as a simple procedure. But in the case of canine heartworms, it is an involved treatment that takes months to complete. Not to mention the cost…depending on the weight and condition of the animal, the cost could range from $800-$2000. A comprehensive blood panel and radiographs of your pet’s chest will be performed prior to treatment. An electrocardiogram may also be recommended. Because the medication used is not without risk, and veterinarians want to make sure your animal is a good candidate for treatment, these pre-treatment procedures are needed. The treatment also involves a very potent medication requiring your pet to be closely monitored during the treatment process. The bottom line here… it is a lot easier and cheaper to prevent heartworms in dogs, rather than having to treat them.

Preventing canine heartworms

There are several choices of canine heartworm prevention medications available through your veterinarian. The most popular are chewable tablets that your pet takes once monthly. There are many different brands available and some even include flea control. In addition, the heartworm preventatives also help prevent a variety of intestinal worms, when taken as directed. By consulting with your veterinary staff, you can choose the prevention that best suits your pet’s needs.

Lauren Briggs Wills
Veterinary Technician, Skyway Animal Hospital
St. Petersburg, FL 33712


A common myth about canine heartworms is that house dogs are not at risk. Unless your dog lives in a protective bubble, he or she IS at risk for heartworm disease. Depending on the climate where you live, your veterinarian may only recommend the prevention for certain months during the year.

DO YOUR PET A FAVOR and protect them from canine heartworms, with the unconditional love they give you, they certainly deserve it!

For more information about Canine Heartworm Disease, check out this video from Veterinary News Network. Also if you haven’t signed up for your Skyway Animal Hospital Discount Coupon, be sure to do that.


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Why Is My Pet Eating Grass? An Age Old Question

By | Behavior, Pet Health

The information contained in this article was obtained from Veterinary News Network and Applied Animal Behavior Science, 111: 120-132.

Dog eating Grass Skyway Animal Hospital providing veterinary care in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, FLA very commonly asked question of veterinarians is “Doctor why does my dog or cat keep eating grass?”

Over the years the usual answer has been that the pet eats grass, because the pet is sick and instinctively tries to make themself vomit. The other common answer is that there is some type of deficiency within the pet’s diet, and the pet is trying to correct the deficiency.

Well, to test these notions, the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, conducted a survey of over 3,000 pet owners. The study was developed by Drs. Karen Sueda, Kelly Cliff and Benjamin Hart. Of the 3,000 surveys, 1,600 were used in the study. They found that 80% of the dogs, when having the chance to eat grass or some other plant did so. From the results they also found that 68% of the dogs ate grass on a daily or at least a weekly basis. Very few, only 8%, of the dogs demonstrated any signs of illness before eating grass or some other plant and of that group, 22% vomited post ingestion. The vomiting was more prevalent in dogs showing some signs of illness before eating the plant material. The survey also implied that younger dogs tended to eat grass or plants more and they did not appear to be ill prior to ingestion, and did not vomit routinely after ingestion.

Based on these findings, it appears that eating grass or plants is more of a behavioral issue that occurs commonly in dogs, and there is no relationship to the pet being ill and the grass eating by the pet. They also concluded that vomiting does not usually occur after the ingestion.

We just said this is normal, but it has also been suggested that the eating of grass and/or plants, may be a means for dogs and cats in the wild, to help eliminate intestinal worms. Based on this, our domesticated species may have simply inherited the trait for the consumption of grass and plants.

With cats, the situation is about the same; however, it appears that cats are less likely to eat grass or plants, they also do not appear to be ill before ingesting and they also do not usually vomit after eating plant material.

So what’s the conclusion here? Well, basically it is concluded that this is a normal behavioral action of both dogs and cats, and pet owners need not be concerned with it. However; if the pet has signs of illness prior to ingesting grass or plants, the pet should be examined as a precautionary measure to determine if there is an underlying disease process occurring. Finally, this does not mean that dogs and cats can eat any type of grass or plants. Remember, there are toxic plants in nature and in homes. Also, the ingestion of grass that has been treated with fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides could potentially be very serious if ingested.

It might just be best, to take measures, so your pet does not ingest any grass or plants.

Skyway Animal Hospital
3258 5th Avenue South
St.Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 327-5141

If you haven’t gotten your Skyway Animal Hospital Discount Coupon, be sure to complete the form on the right.

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