The Fight Against Fleas

Halloween is still a month away, but many of our clients have been seeing blood-sucking monsters in their homes for weeks now.  The flea population outdoors is heavy this time of year, and often that means that as your favorite pet moves in and out of the house, the population can be growing inside your home too.

Veterinarians hate fleas for all of the same reasons that pet owners do:  they spread disease, they make pets ill, they trigger allergies and they make pets (and people) itchy and miserable.  And they can be incredibly frustrating to get rid of.Flea in hair

There is a reason that these tiny pests have survived (thrived!!) on this planet for thousands of years.  They are ridiculously small (the body is the size of the tip of your pen), they have a hard protective shell, they lay hundreds of eggs at a time (within hours of landing on your favorite pooch), and their offspring can live as pupae in the soil or in the home for months at a time.  Adult fleas suck blood from the dog, at the same time laying eggs which fall off the dog as he runs through the house.  These eggs hatch over time and develop into pupae (which are incredibly difficult to kill), then larvae, and eventually into adults which use pets as nourishment to start the cycle all over again.

No wonder we are in battle with these parasites.  We have many factors fighting against us:  sheer numbers of pests, cost of control, difficulty in effectively killing the flea, and the fact that our dogs get re-exposed every time they run outside to potty.

So is there any good news in all of this??

We are happy to tell you that as a whole, our profession is now armed with a variety of products that are effective in killing fleas and preventing future infestations.  Flea baths are becoming a thing of the past, and drugs that we give once that last for 3-4 weeks (or even longer!) are the way to go.  We have several oral medications that last from 4 weeks to 3 months.  We also have a collar that kills both fleas and ticks and lasts up to 8 months.

There are so many products out there that many of our clients are overwhelmed with options.  Every family’s situation is different; some dogs take pills, others are better about a liquid applied to the back or a collar.  Some dogs need tick prevention as well as flea control.  Our job is to help you develop a plan of attack to keep your family healthy.  There is nothing that makes us happier than to see your home flea-free for now and for years to come.

If you are in the face of a flea infestation in your home, a dual-attack approach is necessary.  This often means treating all of the dogs and cats in the home every month AND flea bombing the house, too.

Please stop in and see us, we are your resource for flea control!

Rat Poison and Our Pets

This time of year there are many pests outside and consequently we have a lot of pets that are exposed to ‘rat poison’.  For some reason, dogs especially are attracted to many of the products that we humans use to keep mice and rat populations down on the farm and around our homes.  They eat the product (unbeknownst to us) and then it may be days before they act sick.  At this point, it may be difficult for us to save the pet.  We will dive into the products today and give you an overview of the major products out there and their potential consequences.

  1.  The anticoagulant rodenticides.  These products are eaten by the pest and over time (1-3 weeks, typically), internal bleeding will cause death.  The same fate happens with our pets, if we don’t catch it in time.  Signs of rat poison toxicity:  Weakness, lethargy, pale gums, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, coughing, difficulty walking, sudden death.  To diagnose the problem:  Physical exam, bloodwork (including a panel to check for blood clotting ability), x-rays and ultrasound may be necessary.  The treatment:  Vitamin K, supportive care, and potentially a blood transfusion.  The prognosis:  Good if found early on, especially if treatment starts before your furry friend is acting sick.  The rodenticide products (courtesy of “Clinical Veterinary Advisor”, Etienne Cote):
    1. Warfarin.  Trade Names:  Anchor Rat and Mouse Bait, Cat-in-a-Bag
    2. Pindone.  Trade Names:  Purina Rat kill Soluble, Eaton’s AC Formula 50.
    3. Diphacinone.  Trade Names:  Assassin Rodenticide Bait, Exterminator’s Choice.
    4. Difethialone.  Trade Names:  D-Cease, Generations, D-Con Rat and Mouse Bait.
    5. Brodifacoum.  Trade Names:  D-Con Mouse Prufe III, Havoc, Jaguar, Final Blox
    6. Bromadiolone.  Trade Names:  Boot Hill, Hawk, Just One Bite
  2. The bromethalin rodenticides.  These products are also used as bait for rodents, but act in a different way than the traditional anticoagulant rodenticides.  These products affect the nervous system of the animal, causing muscle tremors and seizures and weakness.   These signs start quickly, within the first 24-72 hours after our furry friend eats the product.  Treatment:  There is NO treatment or antidote for this poison.  We can try to get the pet to vomit or pump the stomach to stop absorption.  We can give supportive care (IV fluids, etc) to pets that are showing signs of ingestion, but at this point the prognosis is guarded.
  3. The cholecalciferol rodenticides.  These products are also ingested as bait for rodents and are as insidious and deadly as the bromethalin rodenticides.  They cause weakness, lethargy, and increased thirst and urination.  The kidneys are affected and shut down over several days.  Treatment: There is NO treatment or antidote for this poison.  We can try to get the pet to vomit or pump the stomach to stop absorption.  We can give supportive care (IV fluids, etc.) to pets that are showing signs of ingestion, but at this point the prognosis is guarded.

We highly encourage you to keep these baits out of reach of your furry friends!

If you have a pet poison emergency, please call us at WCVS or call the ASPCA pet poison hotline (888) 426-4435.

Feline Leukemia Virus – What is it?

This is such a complex and potentially devastating disease.  We get a lot of questions about it from pet owners, and frankly it can be tough to diagnose and manage Thebes the Catfrom a clinician’s standpoint.  Let’s see if we can clear up a few mental fuzzies about this subject today.

This disease affects cats ONLY.  This means that it can only be spread between cats and cannot be passed on to humans or dogs.

The virus is transmitted through close contact with an infected cat, i.e. cat bites, grooming, sharing a litter box, food or water dishes.  Saliva is the primary carrier, but blood and urine and feces and mother’s milk can all carry the virus too.  Many cats are infected as kittens, whether still in the womb or through nursing and close contact with an infected mother.

After a cat is infected, several things can happen.  

  1. Cat’s immune system responds and fights off the virus, clearing it from it’s system.
  2. Cat’s immune system responds but cannot fully fight off the virus, and it stays hidden in the body as a ‘latent’ infection for years.  These cats do not act sick, and can live a normal lifespan.  They can also live for a number of years and then eventually become actively infected and ill.
  3. Cat’s immune system cannot fight off the virus, and ends up with infection throughout the body, including the bone marrow.  This is life-long and cannot be undone.
    1. Bone marrow infection can lead to secondary infections because the immune system is not working properly.
    2. Bone marrow infection can also lead to anemia and platelet abnormalities, which can lead to weakness, blood loss and eventually death.
    3. FeLV virus also causes a variety of cancers in cats by ‘turning on’ cancer activity in normal cells.


How do we know if a cat is infected with FeLV?   Veterinarians have a quick blood test called an ELISA that tests for the virus in the bloodstream.  It is a good screening test for cats that have the virus active in their bloodstream.  Any positives should be followed up with another ELISA in 2-4 months, or a different blood test called an IFA.  An IFA test is different from an ELISA because it detects a positive infection in the bone marrow and is a good confirmatory test.  This helps to determine if your kitty fought off initial infection, or whether the infection has progressed into the bone marrow.  Cats with ‘latent infection’ and are not sickly may not show up positive on either test.

What do we do for sick, FeLV confirmed positive cats?  Because the disease is life-long, we try to keep cats from getting secondary infections.  This means keeping them indoors in a protected environment, where owners can also keep watch over daily activities (eating, drinking, using the litter box, playing) and observe any changes that could indicate a change in the health of the kitty.  Regular exams with your veterinarian (every 6 months or so) help to detect secondary issues early on.  Regular bloodwork and deworming can help prevent problems as well.

What is the typical lifespan for an FeLV-positive cat?  A cat with a latent infection that isn’t showing signs of illness can live a normal lifespan.  Kitties that are actively sick with positive ELISA and IFA tests can live for 1-3 years with good care.

Can we prevent infection?  Testing strays before adopting them into your household can help identify disease before exposing other naïve cats to FeLV.  Keeping known FeLV viremic cats away from other naïve cats is key as well.  There are several FeLV vaccines on the market that do have efficacy when given yearly as boosters.  They are not 100% effective but are a very good idea for cats that spend time outside or around known FeLV-positive cats.


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Fear of Fireworks and Storms in West Central Indiana

It’s that time again! Thunderstorms and fireworks affect many pets. Check out some tips that may help you and your furry friend to have a happy holiday weekend.

West Central Veterinary Services

The Fourth of July Holiday.  It’s a wonderful time of year, with warm weather and picnics and time spent outside with loved ones.  Often we celebrate our country’s independence with a BANG!  (literally).  For some of us, that’s thrilling.  For those of us that have furry friends that are frightened by things that go ‘boom’ and ‘flash’, it can be a tough season of the year.

Compounding the problem, the holiday falls right in the middle of severe thunderstorm season, which can mean several months of anxiety management at home.

To some extent, all dogs and cats have some fear of anything that falls out of a normal routine, especially loud noises. Dog hiding under bed Some pets are overly fearful, to the point where we as their humans need to intervene.

This fear can exhibit itself in many different ways.  These can include hiding, pacing, whining, drooling, howling, trembling, destruction of things in the…

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Cat Bite Wounds

Spring is here, and at the veterinary clinic that means more than wonderfully warm weather.  Here it also means lambs and baby calves and cat bite wounds.

Everyone seems to emerge from the winter cold and quiet and here we are with cats that are mating and fighting with one another.  Hence the cat bites.

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Happy kitty with no cat bites. 

So what is the typical presentation to us at the veterinary clinic?


  1.  The owner sees his/her furry kitty friend engage in a squall with another kitty.
  2. (Or, alternatively, the kitty friend is let outside for the day and shows up in the evening with a limp or just doesn’t feel good).
  3. Kitty doesn’t have any energy.
  4. Kitty doesn’t want to eat or drink.
  5. Kitty may have a swollen leg or may be lame on one leg.  (Often it resembles a broken leg).

Typically, these cats are running fevers, with 104 degrees F and higher pretty common.  They can be dehydrated and extremely painful.

When cats bite, they inject bacteria deep into the muscle tissue with their long canine teeth.  These bacteria fester over the next few days, during which time the skin may even heal over, trapping infection inside the muscle.

These infections require prescription oral antibiotics to heal properly.  Sometimes an x-ray is required to rule out a fractured leg.  Sometimes the skin over the wound dies and falls away, leaving an open wound that is managed with bandaging and fly repellent.  Sometimes pain relief is required, or even hospitalization to rehydrate a very sick cat with IV fluids and start with injectable antibiotics.

Another thing to think about is the transmission of other diseases by cat bites, such as feline leukemia, FIV, and FIP.  This discussion is an important one to have with your veterinarian, especially if your cat is outdoors.

Every case is different, but now you know the basics of what to look for with cat bites!

FAQ: How Often Should I Deworm My Pet?

We get this question a lot, especially for routine yearly exams for our patients.  How often should we be deworming our pets?  The answer is:  it depends!  Let’s discuss.

First of all, we need to understand which ‘worms’ we are talking about.  What enemies are we fighting?  After all, nobody wants these guys in our pets and in our homes.


I mean, seriously.  This hookworm is scary.

  1. Hookworms.  Primarily a concern in dogs, this worm has eggs that are shed by infected animals and live in the soil, waiting for your furry friend to gobble them up as they nose around in your yard.  These worms are also passed from mother to baby through the placenta or milk.  They live in the intestines and suck blood, which over time causes low red blood cell counts (anemia), weight loss, diarrhea, lethargy and death.
  2. Roundworms. Seen in both dogs and cats, this worm looks like spaghetti when shed out with stool.  Often puppies and kittens get them from mom through the placenta, so we see babies shedding worms even as early as 6 and 8 weeks old.  They primarily live in the small intestine and cause weight loss, poor hair coats, intestinal blockage and rarely can cause nerve and eye disease.  This worm can be spread to people, especially children, making it a top priority to keep dogs dewormed in homes with families.
  3. Whipworms.  Primarily a concern in dogs, this worm lives in the large intestine and is shed in the stool.  Furry friends ingest the worm eggs and they grow into the adult worm stage in the intestine.  Causes diarrhea, dehydration, blood loss, weight loss, lethargy and death.
  4. Tapeworms.   Our furry friends can pick up tapeworms from fleas, soil and from hunting rodents in the backyard.  We see little bitty segments of worms in the stool that look like rice.  These are actually only small pieces of the actual worm, which is roughly 6 inches long and are attached by a mouth part to the inside of the intestinal wall.  To get rid of these, a critter needs to be de-wormed and de-flea’d too.
  5. Heartworms.  Both cats and dogs can get heartworms, which as adults live in the lungs and heart.  They are spread through mosquitoes.  The insects take a blood meal from an infected critter, thereby ingesting the immature form of the worm (called a microfilaria).  Then the mosquito moves down the road and takes another blood meal from an uninfected animal, where the microfilaria break through the skin and get into the bloodstream of the newly infected dog or cat.  Over several months, the microfilaria grow into 6 inch long spaghetti-like worms that settle into the large blood vessels of the lungs and cause disease.  Signs of disease include weight loss, shortness of breath, coughing and death.


Ok, take a minute and catch your breath.  Like, wow.  These things are not only gross, but they spread disease (they could even spread disease to you!).

Now that we know what we’re fighting, get your battle gear on.  We’re going into battle against these buggers.

First things first.  We need to figure out if your furry friend actually is carrying any of these parasites.  It’s important to note that these worms don’t shed in the feces every time the dog or cat stools.  In fact, it’s common for there to only be eggs shed in the stool, which are microscopic and unable to be seen with the human eye.  Bottom line:  Your furry friend could be infected without you even seeing any sign of worms. 

So let’s do a simple test.  Look at a fresh stool sample under the microscope and see if we find any worm eggs.  This is a 15 minute test called a “fecal flotation”  that can be done here in the vet clinic.  Once we know what we’re dealing with, we can pick a dewormer that best suits your pet’s situation.

Keep in mind, heartworms are the worms on the list that cannot be simply killed by an oral dewormer.  Heartworms need a more complex treatment involving injections and hospitalization.

Like most battles, the best defense is a good offense when it comes to parasites.  That’s why we really like these monthly chewable pills that we give that can kill intestinal parasites AND kill heartworm microfilaria, too.  So every month your pet is protected from these nasty critters.  An alternative way to approach them is to give a heartworm prevention injection (Proheart 6) every 6 months, and check your pet’s stool with a fecal flotation at the same time, deworming if necessary.

We would love for you to call and come into the clinic!  We can test your pet for parasites and come up with the best plan for your family to prevent infection and disease.

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WCVS Flea and Tick Prevention 2016


Spring is here!  We are seeing ticks and fleas already in the clinic.  If you want to avoid problems, now is the time to prevent them!  If you already have a problem, now is the time to get rid of those pests.

Ticks, as you remember, are the agents that spread Lyme disease.  We see cases of this disease regularly in our patients.  (If you want a recap on this disease, check out our previous blog here).  Ticks also spread other diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis, which can be chronic.

Fleas are not just a nuisance to get rid of (they start reproducing on your pet and then lay eggs that get into your carpet and floorboards!), but they carry disease too.  (Check out our previous conversation about this topic in The Fight Against Fleas).

Let’s review the products that we are keeping available for purchase in the clinic this year for your furry friends.

Fleas and Ticks for Dogs:

  • Bravecto.  12 month protection for fleas/ticks in one chewable tablet.
  • Nexgard.  1 month protection for fleas/ticks in one chewable tablet.
  • Simparica.  1 month protection for fleas/ticks in one chewable tablet.
  • Seresto Collar.  8 month protection for fleas/ticks in one collar.
  • Effitix.  1 month topical protection for fleas/ticks.  Apply to the skin monthly.  For dogs ONLY.


Fleas and Ticks for Cats:

  • Revolution.  1 month topical protection for fleas/ticks/heartworms/intestinal parasites/ear mites.  Apply to the skin monthly.
  • Easy Spot.  1 month topical protection for fleas/ticks/chewing lice.  Apply to skin monthly.
  • Cheristin.  1 month topical protection for fleas.  Apply to skin monthly.
  • Seresto Collar.  8 month protection for fleas/ticks in one collar.


Fleas only:

Comfortis.  1 month flea protection in chewable tablet form.  For both dogs and cats.

Trifexis.  For dogs only.  1 month flea/heartworm/intestinal parasite protection in chewable tablet form.

Remember that prevention is definitely the best.  Get your furry friend protected before these bad guys get onto our furry friends.  Please call for help in finding the right product for you and for your loved one.  Our clinic phone numbers and locations can be found here: