Heartworm Disease on the Rise in the USA

The American Heartworm Society and Companion Animal Parasite Council are the authorities who veterinarians look to for national data regarding the treatment and incidence of heartworm disease.  These two groups have recently come out with updated information regarding the current national trends of the disease.  Data was collected from veterinary clinics all over the USA regarding numbers of positive heartworm cases and the results are in…heartworm disease is on the rise in our country.

Forecasted HW prev 2017

2016 saw an increase in the number of dogs diagnosed per veterinary clinic by an average of 21% nationwide vs. 2013 (this data is collected every 3 years).  Heartworm disease is seen in every state in the nation.

Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes that carry the parasite from infected dogs, coyotes, wolves and foxes to uninfected dogs and cats.

The disease is a preventable one, with multiple medications available from monthly oral pills to liquid topicals to 6-month injections that stop the disease before you started.

We are still following AHS guidelines for the disease, testing dogs yearly and recommending year-round prevention.

For information regarding heartworm disease, check out the American Heartworm Society Page: https://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources/heartworm-basics


Canine Cognitive Dysfunction-“Old Age Disease”

Dr. Jennifer Allio

Many pet doINDEXSMALL_bassettg owners notice changes as their furry friend ages, but they don’t really know why this happens or what to do about it.  Hopefully this article will help with questions you may have about your dog’s behaviors.

Canine cognitive dysfunction is what veterinarians are calling an older dog that is otherwise healthy but has shown dramatic changes in behavior with age.  In the same way that we become forgetful as we get older, our pets can experience similar changes in their brain functions.  Examples include; changes in sleep patterns, disorientation, changes in social interactions, house soiling, activity changes, or anxiety.  There is a mnemonic for this disorder that may be helpful (DISH-A).

D – Disorientation.  Your dog may begin to wander around the house in a daze.

I – Interaction.  Your dog no longer wants to be around you, or the opposite, becomes clingy.

S – Sleep/wake.  Your dog begins to sleep longer during the day and not much at night.

H – House soiling.  An otherwise potty-trained dog that begins having accidents.

A – Activity.  A decrease in activity or sudden hyperactivity.

The ability for pets to learn significantly decreases at the ages of 6 to 8 years old.  This does not mean you have to cast your beloved dog out because he is having a hard time sleeping at night.  There is help available.  One of the first things you may want to do is watch your dog at home for any of these changes and make a list of what you see and when you see it, so you can talk to your veterinarian about it.  Your veterinarian may want to run a blood panel to begin ruling out other causes as this disease is typically diagnosed by knowing symptoms, doing a physical exam, and ruling out other disease processes.  Once you and your veterinarian have determined that your pet has canine cognitive dysfunction there are many things you can both do to help your pup live longer and better.

Things you can do at home to help:

  • Provide environmental enrichment. Dog puzzle toys are excellent ways to help your dog’s brain stay active and they can be used with food to entice your pup to learn to play again.  If you use these, be sure to remove all other food sources as a hungry dog will work for food.

o   https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/category/dog/dog-toys/dog-games-and-puzzles

o   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btOfI4vCRiE  (Food Maze Video)

  • Provide adequate, controlled exercise. Short leash walks may be all your pup needs to stay active.  A 15 minute walk twice a day can be beneficial to your dog’s brain health and total body health.

  • Work on some basic training to keep it fresh in your dog’s mind. Multiple short sessions of sit, down, or stay can keep minds active.  It only takes 2-3 minutes at a time.
  • Keep your dog safe by confining him or her while you are not home. A safe place with no stairs to fall down or cords to chew on with a soft bed can be helpful when you are not able to be with your pet.  Leave fresh water available if you will be gone for over 3 hours.


Things your veterinarian may do:

  • May run a blood panel or other tests to rule out other potential problems (kidney disease, arthritis, cancer, etc).
  • May prescribe a new diet that is rich in antioxidants, fatty acids, and proteins that help the brain function better. Two current prescription diets include Hill’s b/d and Purina Neurocare.
  • Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to aid in your dog’s cognitive function as well as help him or her sleep better if this is a concern.

As you can see, there are many things that can be done to help your pet stay active and healthy for as long as possible.  Hopefully this article is encouraging to our owners of senior dogs as well as helpful.  As always, continue to work with your veterinarian to provide your pet the best care.

When Fluffy urinates in the house…and she normally doesn’t.

dog peeing in house

Dr. Hilary Slaven

We frequently see dogs that have been potty-trained for years and suddenly have a lapse – and now they are urinating inside the house.  This is never a good thing and we can help!

The first thing we do in these situations is get a good history from you, the loving and observant owner.  We will ask questions like: how long has this been a problem?  Does it happen overnight as well as during the day?  Is the dog straining to urinate?  Does your dog act like he is very thirsty?  Does your dog leave puddles when he sleeps?  Are you finding big puddles or small puddles?  Does your dog have a good appetite?  Any vomiting or diarrhea?

The next thing to do is to get a good physical examination of the dog.  We look in the eyes, listen to the heart and lungs, feel the belly, and take a body temperature.  This will give us clues as to what the problem is, and help us to determine what tests we need to run.

If you can, try to keep your dog from urinating before coming in to see the veterinarian.  We like to get samples of urine and test it for infection.  Sometimes that urine sample can be caught as the dog is urinating, and sometimes it’s best to get a “clean” sample by inserting a needle directly into the bladder.  If you are able to get a sample of your own, put it in a clean disposable container, seal it, and refrigerate until you can bring it in.  Samples should be run within 24 hours for best results.

After we run tests for infection, sometimes it is necessary to get an x-ray of the belly, to check for kidney and bladder stones.  Many stones show up in this way and tell us whether or not we need to address this problem.  Some stones can be dissolved with a special diet, while others need surgery to remove them.

Bloodwork is sometimes necessary to rule in/out other diseases that can cause frequent urination, like diabetes and kidney disease.  Sometimes dogs become incontinent or have cognitive problems as they age, which can result in inappropriate urination.

We can help with urinating problems, give us a call!


Backyard chickens – The new trend



Dr. Hilary Slaven

There is nothing better than waking up, walking outdoors, and collecting fresh eggs for breakfast.  The contented clucking of the hens and the freshness of the food–wonderful.  In recent years, we have seen a lot of clients moving toward having a chicken coop in their backyard, even in town!  This is egg-citing, to say the least, and merits some discussion of how this can be a successful venture for our town clients.

Here are a few basic tips for backyard hens:

  1. Be sure that your town law allows for chickens inside the city limits. 
  2. Do your research.  Know the investment of cash and time involved to build and sustain your flock.  Great books out there:  our recommendation is Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow.
  3. Consider purchasing a pre-made coop, or study one and build your own.   Moveable housing is a good option, because it allows for chickens to be contained but also allows them to forage for food.  Chickens that cannot forage can act pretty nutty!  Foraging also allows for chickens to get extra nutrients from the ground.
  4. Chicks need warmth and a growing feed for the first few weeks of life.  Many owners will keep chicks inside their home or garage until they are old enough to move to the chicken coop, usually around 6-9 weeks of age.  Baby chicks need access to a heat lamp and grower feed.  Look for chicks to be evenly distributed around the box — this is a sign that their body temperature is just right.  If they are huddled under the heat lamp, it is too cold.  If they are gathered away from the lamp, it is too warm.
  5. Chickens start laying eggs around 6 months of age and need to be on an egg-laying diet with supplements of calcium, such as crushed oyster shells.  They also need plenty of fresh water, as each hen can drink up to 4 cups of water a day.  As the hen gets older, it is normal for egg production to start to drop eventually.
  6. Keep your enclosure clean and dry.  Changing bedding regularly keeps ammonia levels low and helps prevent respiratory troubles.  It also keeps hens clean and helps prevent mites and other skin issues.
  7. What you feed can affect how stinky your coop becomes.  When you have neighbors, this can be a significant issue.  Feeding a ‘vegetarian-based’ feed can help reduce the aroma and maintain good relationships with your friends over the fence.
  8. Don’t crowd your coop.  Too many hens in a small space can cause chickens to be unhappy.  They may start picking on each other (literally), lay fewer eggs, and can be more unhealthy.
  9. Eggs carry Salmonella bacteria.  Be cautious about allowing children to pick up eggs and play around the coop — be sure to have normal hand washing, etc.

Chickens are a lot of fun to watch and are easy to handle.  This can be a very rewarding hobby for you!

Orthopedic Rehabilitation for Dogs

There has been evidence that dogs, like people, benefit greatly from rehabilitation after orthopedic injuries and surgeries.  In the past, surgeries to repair bone fractures, spinal injuries and torn ligaments have been followed up with pain relievers and orders for strict rest (“cage rest”).  What we can see with this approach is loss of muscle tone and weakness over time.  This can lead to a longer road to recovery, with potentially fewer success stories.

The newer approach with canine medicine is to look at surgical recovery more like our human counterparts…with prescriptions for structured physical therapy in the veterinary hospital post-operatively.  This often means follow-up physical therapy appointments for several weeks after the surgery, as well as at-home instructions for exercises.


Like much of small animal veterinary medicine, orthopedic rehabilitation is becoming a specialized aspect to our work beyond general medicine.  Small animal veterinarians can have special training and become certified in rehabilitation.  Our own Dr. Laura Couch, of WCVS Rockville, has recently been certified in this area and is now seeing patients that could benefit from physical therapy.

Horses and Intestinal Worms: What you need to know!

By Dr. Danielle Willenborg

“It’s spring, that means I deworm my horse, right?  Maybe not!”

Intestinal parasites are something that horse owners have been concerned about for years.  Many believe that they should deworm adult horses at least twice a year, once being in the spring of the year.  That may not be the case anymore, and if you are deworming when it is not needed then you may be causing more harm than good.


Large Strongyle larvae in the horse gut tissue.  http://www.eggzamin.com




Bots in the stomach of a horse.  http://www.bimectin.com


The most common intestinal parasites we worry about as veterinarians are:  large strongyles, small strongyles, and bots.  The two most concerning in the springtime are the strongyles.  Large and small strongyle larvae are picked up off the grass when horses are grazing, they are ingested and travel through the gut where they then reproduce and eggs are then shed into the environment through feces.  Once eggs are shed they form into larvae where the life cycle then starts again.

There are other parasites such as round worms, tapeworms, lungworms, hairworms, stomach worms, and threadworms but these are not as common and therefore not as much a concern at this time.

Determining if you have a parasite problem is the first step, which you can do by bringing a fresh fecal sample to your veterinarian.  We will then perform a test called a fecal flotation to look for parasite eggs.

If it is found that you in fact have a parasite problem, we will recommend a de-wormer based on the number of eggs and type of worms seen.  We may also make recommendations about pasture decontamination ad deworming of other pasture mates or barn mates.  In this way, we are able to treat the specific problem in a direct way, without guessing as to whether there is a problem or not.



If it is found that horses do not have a large parasite problem and you deworm anyway, then you may be aiding in parasite drug resistance.  Resistant worm populations are not affected by the deworming drugs that are commonly used.  This happens when we deworm when the problem is not severe or use the same medication over and over again year after year.  If resistance continues to rise, one day our medications may no longer be useful with no new deworming medications on the horizon.  This would then leave us with a large number of ill horses without much to do to help.  This is why it is important to contact your veterinarian and bring in a fecal sample before you decide to deworm your adult horses this year.  Help us to fight drug resistance by turning to us before you head to the store to buy that de-wormer.

Puppy Pad Mishaps


Dr. Jennifer Allio


            There is nothing like having that warm, soft little body snuggle up to you at night or during your down time.  There is also nothing that makes you angrier than when that warm soft, little body pees on your brand new carpet.  Next thing you know, you are running around with a rolled up newspaper, chasing that sweet little puppy or dog you fell in love with at the breeder, shelter, or adoption event.  So, put down the newspaper, grab a cup of coffee and read about what we can do to help you and your furry family member.


            Most puppies or dogs have accidents due to a medical condition or the need for some additional house training.  So, many times, you may have to start back at square one with house training.  Yes, even a 10 year old previously housetrained dog can have a mishap or two.  In order to rule out medical causes, you will need to see your veterinarian, but these next few tips may help with the behavioral part of your dog’s problem. 


            First, you must take a deep breath when that fuzzy little creature makes a big mess on your new floor.  Then, if possible, interrupt their little process abruptly by making a loud noise.  As soon as you do this take him or her outside and when the elimination continues outside in a more appropriate place, reward heavily with lots of praise and yummy treats at the spot in the yard he or she finishes on. 


            Next, you will need to clean the mess in the house using a cleaner with an odor neutralizer such as; Urine Away (your veterinarian may carry this product), Nature’s Miracle, or Anti-Icky Poo.  Thoroughly cleaning the area the accident was in is important in the prevention of another accident occurring in that same spot. For our pets, if it smells like a “potty place”, then it must be a “potty place”.  Keeping in mind that their noses are 40 times stronger than ours, we want to make sure our cleaners are truly neutralizing the odor, so using a good product and following the label’s instructions are a great place to start.


            Now, to get that pup outside all the time may be a bit of a challenge, but with a little consistency and determination it can be done.  For younger puppies, you will need to take them outside every 2-3 hours.  When your pup is not under your constant supervision, they should be in a place that is comfortable and easy to clean.  Many people will crate-train their puppies for this reason.  When done right, crate training can be a very helpful tool for the busy family with kids, ball games, ballet, and piano.  Believe it or not, the crate can be a place of comfort for your puppy when you are unable to be around to watch him or her constantly.


            Any time your puppy or adult dog eats or drinks, he or she should be allowed outside for a chance to eliminate.  After play sessions, long stretches in the crate, or a nap on the couch, give your pup a chance to go outside.  As soon as your pup eliminates outside, be sure to reward him or her in the spot he or she eliminates.  This creates a positive association with eliminating outside.  Many times I hear stories of pet owners punishing a dog or puppy for eliminating inside the house only for them to find future accidents in hidden places.  Creating only a negative association with eliminating inside can lead to dogs or puppies finding new places to hide their accidents.  Creating a positive association with eliminating outside helps your pup to better understand where to go and creates a closer bond between you and him or her. 


            Another common method I hear is treating the puppy or dog as he or she comes back into the house.  Doing this creates a positive association with coming back inside instead of with eliminating outside.  Many of these dogs will run out to the backyard only to run right back in for a treat.  They do not think far enough back to know the treat was for eliminating in the yard instead of on the carpet.  Likewise, your puppy or adult dog does not associate a previous accident in the house with your anger upon arriving home to find it.  They do sense your anger by your posture and tone of voice; however, and may give you some appeasement signs in hopes to calm you down.  These might look like cowering (lowering of the head and body while looking up), rolling on their back to expose their bellies, and of course the classic tail tuck running away.


            Do not be discouraged if you have been trying some of these punishment methods with no help. Try switching to a reward system for appropriate elimination and be sure to give your pup plenty of opportunities to relieve him or herself outside.  This sets you both up for success in the long run.  Do not worry if you have an older dog, as they can learn these things, too.


Some other really great resources for housetraining are: Perfect Puppy in 7 days by Dr. Sophia Yin and Way To GO!!  By Karen B. London, PhD and Patricia B. McConnell, PhD.