by Matthew Lang R.V.T.
Summer will be coming to an end soon and Fall will be right around the corner. Kids are going back to school, the leaves will begin to change color, and all things pumpkin will make their return (Pumpkin-spice kitty litter anyone?). This is a time to buy school supplies, put away the swim trunks and start thinking about taking your animals off their flea, tick, and heartworm prevention....or is it? Maybe they only spend time indoors so they don't even need to be on prevention in the first place, right? This edition of Hillside Mythbusters will look at these and other myths that deal with your pet's monthly preventatives.
Myth: I don't need to keep my pets on prevention during the colder months.
BUSTED: Even during the winter months fleas and ticks can still lie dormant until one warm day arrives. This will often cause an infestation in your home if you have taken your pets off preventatives or they weren't on any at all. In our area we often never see an extended period of cold weather that would get rid of fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes(which cause heartworms). So this means that they can still be present even throughout the winter.
Myth: My pet lives inside, so they don't need to be on prevention.
BUSTED: Unfortunately, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are crafty creatures. There is a reason we label them as pests. Fleas can jump on you or your pet when they walk outside in a matter of seconds. Mosquitoes often will fly inside your house just from a door or window being opened. Also, no pet ever seems to totally live indoors, unless you are using puppy pads/litterboxes and have one of those nifty tubes that the bank uses to transport your pet around (Good luck getting that image out of your head!). Ticks will often attach to your clothes without you realizing it and can then latch onto your pet.
Myth: I don't have any carpets, so fleas can't live in my home.
BUSTED: Fleas are small, but their eggs are even smaller. You can think of flea eggs as grains of salt. Animals with fleas are like walking shakers of salt spreading flea eggs everywhere. These eggs will get into carpeting, furniture, or even the small cracks in between hardwood floors! A single female flea can lay 20 eggs a day and eggs typically develop between 2 days and 2 weeks. With the volume of eggs being laid and how quickly they develop, you can see how quickly an infestation can occur.
Myth: I never see any fleas, so there is no need to use prevention on my pets.
BUSTED: With fleas it is what you don't see that is the problem. Flea eggs make up 50% of the entire flea population and ,as mentioned earlier, are the size of a grain of salt. They then hatch and become flea larvae. The larvae make up 35% of the flea population and are about 1/4 inch long. They eat the pre-digested blood of adult fleas, or "flea dirt" as it's called. Another name for flea dirt is flea poop (gross, right!). In 5-20 days the larvae spin silken cocoons and go into the pupae stage. This stage makes up 10% of the flea population. In this stage fleas are well protected. Prevention generally won't touch them and if environmental conditions aren't right they can be protected for months up to years. This is commonly why people moving into a new home will experience a flea infestation. Flea pupae will lay dormant and emerge when they sense the body heat of pets or humans, the rise in carbon dioxide from breathing, and the vibration from the movement in the home. When they emerge they are hungry and will begin to bite anyone nearby! The last stage is the adult flea and this is the stage that owners often see the most. Adult fleas make up only 5% of the total flea population. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fleas.
Myth: I don't need Heartworm prevention since my pet has always tested negative.
BUSTED: The importance of an annual heartworm test cannot be stressed enough! Heartworm disease causes permanent damage to the heart and surrounding vessels. Dogs have died from as few as one heartworm becoming stuck in the chambers of the heart. The valves are forced open and the heart cannot pump blood properly in the body. One veterinarian even conducted his own study by following up on a patient of his. The dog was treated for heartworms when he was 2 years old. He was a stray that was adopted and kept on heartworm prevention every 30 days after heartworm treatment. When the dog passed away at the age of 15 from natural causes, the veterinarian received permission from the owner to evaluate the heart to see what the longterm effects of heartworm disease was. What he found was very surprising. The veterinarian found evidence of worm pieces still in the heart and the surrounding vessels had a cobble-stone appearance (normally this area is smooth). Remember all of this is 12 years after treatment on a dog who faithfully received preventative every 30 days. This shows that treatment isn't a simple matter and that preventative is a much easier option. Heartworm tests done annually will ensure that the preventative is working properly and that further damage can't be done if a dog is heartworm positive. The tests we use in the clinic will also test for tick-borne diseases that owners can get as well.
Hopefully this edition of Hillside Mythbusters has helped to clear up some myths surrounding prevention of fleas, ticks, and heartworms. I also hope you have learned something along the way and can better understand the diseases and pests we are fighting everyday with our patients and their owners. Finally, if there are any myths or topics you wish to learn about please let us know! Until next time enjoy the company of your furry friends and not the several thousand guests that want to make your home theirs!
Hillside Mythbusters: Food Edition
by Matthew Lang R.V.T.
Myth: The Ingredient list is the best way to pick a pet food.
BUSTED: While it is tempting to buy a pet food with a lot of fancy ingredients, you must remember that animals need nutrients not ingredients. Nutrients are the vitamins and minerals that are vital to your pet's health. Ingredients are also listed by weight with the heaviest ingredients at the top and lighter ones on the bottom. This often includes water content in fresh meat and vegetables. This means that these watered down ingredients may contribute less nutrients even though they make up a larger portion of the diet. Your best bet for picking a diet is to look for an AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) Seal and to choose a diet that was tested by "Feeding Trial". This is the gold standard of nutrition testing and means that it not only follows AAFCO diet formulation guidelines, but also was fed to groups of animals and deemed safe to consume.
Myth: By Products are unhealthy and shouldn't be fed to my pet.
BUSTED: When pet owners think of by products they think of the worst possible things imaginable, such as, feet, hair, horn, snouts, tumors, feces, and feathers. The truth is none of these things make it into your pet's food! What is really in animal by products are organ meat, blood, and sometimes ground bone. To most owners these still sound like disgusting items, but to your pet they are both delicious and nutritious. They provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients vital to your pet's health. Also you may be eating by products already and not realizing it if you eat anything with gelatin (which comes from cow collagen). So remember, "There's always room for cow collagen"! (Not as catchy as the original, but more accurate).
Myth: Corn is bad for my pet and is just filler.
BUSTED: Corn has become one of the most persecuted grains (not the G-word! more on that later) in pet foods and it is time to stand up for this amazing little guy! First of all, filler is defined as something added that has no purpose or in the case of food no nutritional value. This is far from true! Corn is actually a highly digestible grain (Oh, there it is again!) that is a great source of protein, fat, and fiber. Also when corn is harvested for pet food the healthiest part of the kernel goes into....your pets food and humans are left with the syrupy substance known as high fructose corn syrup.
Myth: Grains are bad for animals.
BUSTED: As I alluded to in the previous myth, grains also receive a bad rap. Owners often believe they are just filler or cause allergies. While some grains may cause allergies, it isn't as common as allergies to protein sources. Proteins are large molecules and in some animals it can trigger an allergic reaction. Grains can be a nutritious part of your pet's diet. Does that mean grain-free diets are bad? No, they just have to be fed with caution since they are often higher in fat and can cause weight gain.
Myth: If a pet food label says it has chicken/beef, ect... the majority of the diet has that protein source.
PLAUSIBLE: When it comes to pet food labels you often have to read them very carefully since the wording makes all of the difference as to the percentage of a protein source is actually in a diet. Hopefully this guide will help to show how much protein is really in your pet's diet.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc....
If a package says Chicken, Beef, or any other protein source it must contain at least 70% or more of that protein source. This is on an as fed basis once water is removed from that protein source.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc.. "Dinner"
These foods will have 25% or more of that protein source and water is included when weighing that protein source before it is added.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc.... "Platter" or "Entree"
These foods will have at least 3% of the labeled protein source.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc...."Flavor"
These food will have less than 3% of the labeled protein source.
Myth: I should feed an organic, natural, holistic diet
PLAUSIBLE : Of the three words I just used, only two really carry a legal definition. Organic diets meet regulation established by the USDA to certify them organic. Natural diets are diets made without any synthesized ingredients meaning all of the ingredients come from nature. Holistic ,on the other hand, has no legal definition. The same goes for labels such as "Human-grade" and "Premium". These are all marketing terms. Before you let that get you down, remember you can use these for anything! You can drive to work in your "premium" car that you filled with "holistic" gas.
I hope that these myths help educate, inform, and entertain. It is getting harder and harder to select the proper diet for pets with all of the growing number of new diets added to the diets that are already on the market. I hope this was a fun and easy way to learn about proper diet selection and as always feel free to call the clinic. I also hope we can do more "Mythbuster" segments in the future and look forward to any and all suggestions! Until then have a "premium" day!
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