Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fleas: The Phantom Menace

Fleas are an issue every pet owner has to face sooner or later and as anyone who has had to deal with them can attest they aren’t always easy to get rid of. To appreciate the complex issue of flea control, you must first understand something about the flea's life cycle.

Although you are only able to see the adult flea, there are actually 4 stages of the life cycle. The adult flea constitutes only about 5% of the entire flea population if you take into account all four stages of the life cycle. Flea eggs are pearly white and about 1/32" (1/2 mm) in length. They are too small to see without magnification. Fleas lay their eggs on the dog, but the eggs do not stick to the dog's hair. Instead, they fall off into the dog's environment. The eggs make up 50% of the flea population. They hatch into larvae in 1 to 10 days, depending on temperature and humidity. High humidity and temperature favor rapid hatching.

Flea larvae are slender and about 1/8-1/4" (2 to 5 mm) in length. They feed on organic debris found in their environment and on adult flea feces, which is essential for successful development. They avoid direct sunlight and actively move deep into carpet fibers or under organic debris (grass, branches, leaves, or soil.) They live for 5 to 11 days before becoming pupae.

Moisture is essential for their survival; flea larvae are killed by drying. Therefore, it is unlikely that they survive outdoors in shade-free areas. Outdoor larval development occurs only where the ground is shaded and moist and where flea-infested pets spend a significant amount of time. This allows flea feces to be deposited in the environment. In an indoor environment, larvae survive best in the protected environment of carpet or in cracks between hardwood floors. They also thrive in humid climates.

Following complete development, the mature larvae produce a silk-like cocoon in which the next step of development, the pupa, resides. The cocoon is sticky, so it quickly becomes coated with debris from the environment. This serves to camouflage it. In warm, humid conditions, pupae become adult fleas in 5-10 days. However, the adults do not emerge from the cocoon unless stimulated by physical pressure, carbon dioxide, or heat.

Pre-emerged adult fleas can survive up to 140 days within the cocoon. During this time, they are resistant to insecticides applied to their environment. Because of this, adult fleas may continue to emerge into the environment for up to 3 weeks following insecticide application.

When the adult flea emerges from its cocoon, it immediately seeks a host because it must have a blood meal within a few days to survive. It is attracted to people and pets by body heat, movement, and exhaled carbon dioxide. It seeks light, which means that it migrates to the surface of the carpet so that it can encounter a passing host. Following the first blood meal, female fleas begin egg production within 36 to 48 hours. Egg production can continue for as long as 100 days, which means that a single flea can produce thousands of eggs.

This entire life cycle (adult flea >>> egg >>> larvae >>> pupa >>> adult) can be completed in 14-21 days with the proper temperature and humidity conditions. This adds to the problem of flea control.

If untreated, the female flea will continue to take blood for several weeks. During that time, she will consume about 15 times her body weight in blood. Although the male fleas do not take as much blood, they, too, contribute to significant blood loss. This can lead to the dog having an insufficient number of red blood cells, which is known as anemia. In young or debilitated dogs, the anemia may be severe enough to cause death.

Contrary to popular belief, most dogs have rather limited itching due to fleabites. However, many dogs become allergic to the saliva in the flea's mouth. When these dogs are bitten, intense itching occurs, causing the dog to scratch and chew on its skin.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Dog Is HOW OLD?!?!

Sophie is a typical four-year old Boston Terrier. She’s playful, constantly full of energy, and always the center of attention. It’s hard to think of her being anything else than your typical four year old but just how old is she really? We often take our pet’s age for granted and don’t realize that they age much faster than we do. In truth our pets are more mature mentally and physically than we ever give them credit.

For years the general rule has been to take your dog’s age and multiply it by seven. While this may do in a pinch it’s not the most accurate or scientific way to calculate your dog’s “true” age. For starters there is no one variable that can be used to determine your pet’s true age. Weight, breed, and life stage all affect how our pets age and must be taken into consideration. A Chihuahua won’t age as fast as a Great Dane. It’s a simple fact that a 5lb dog just won’t put nearly as much stress on their body as a 150lb dog will. Also some breeds such as Bulldogs or Sharpeis have more health issues than others and these considerations need to be addressed. Lastly, a puppy grows and develops at a much faster rate than an adult or senior dog will. Within the first 1-2 years of dog life a puppy will age 20-24 human years, an adult dog (2-9 years old) ages about 4 years for every human year and senior pets (9+ years old) age around 2 years for every human year. As you can see things are a little more complicated than they might first appear.

So just how old is our example pooch, Sophie? She is four so she would fall into the adult category. Let’s assume 24 human years for the first 2 years of life and 4 human years for each year thereafter. That brings us to a grand total of…. 32. Sophie would be approximately 32 years old if she were human. This is not quite equal to the gold standard of seven dog years for every human year but it is close enough. That’s a lot of growing up to do in only four short years.

After getting over the initial shock of just how old your dog really is you may be wondering well so what, why does this information matter? It matters because since dogs age so much faster than we do they are also affected by age related illnesses that much sooner. This is why it is so important to bring your pet in for their yearly physical and vaccinations. One year for us constitutes a much longer time for them in terms of growth and development. Not only are these routine checkups important in keeping our pets in overall good health but they also provide a way to detect age related problems while they are still treatable and before they become life threatening.

So I will leave you with one final question. Just how old IS your dog?

Pet Age Calculator

Dog Age Graph


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Household Hazards: The Bedroom and Living Room

When we want to sit down and relax we normally end up in one of two rooms, either the bedroom or living room. Normally we would not consider these places to be very dangerous but did you know that they could contain just as many hazards for your pets as any other room in your home? Below is a list of some commonly found items that should be kept out of your pet’s reach.

-Liquid potpourri
-Tobacco products
-Pennies (those minted after 1982 contain zinc which is toxic)
-Alkaline batteries (like those in your remote controls and children’s toys)
-Small children’s toys and loose pieces of jewelry (potential choking hazards)
-Exposed electrical cords (can provide a nasty shock if your pet decides to chew on them)

If your pet does accidentally ingest any of these products illness and possibly injury may occur so it is important to keeps these items out of your pet’s reach at all times. As always contact your local veterinarian for further instructions if your pet does ingest anything they shouldn’t have.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Canine Influenza

In the recent weeks many of our clients have contacted us with questions regarding the canine influenza virus. We have all heard the commercials on the radio and with the recent outbreaks of swine flu this year still fresh in many people’s minds it is understandable that people would be concerned about how this disease may potentially affect their pet. We at the Animal Clinic at Thorndale feel that in order to best care for our patients we must also educate our clients. To that end here are a few facts about the canine influenza to keep you better informed about what canine influenza is and what to do if you think your pet has it.
The facts:
• Canine influenza is nothing new. In fact it has been around since 2004.
• The most common sites of exposure are shelters, pet stores, kennels and day care.
• Canine influenza is relatively uncommon in most areas and is not cause for alarm in most cases.
• You do not need to avoid dog parks and other areas frequented by dogs as long as your pets are up to date on their rabies, distemper, and bordetella vaccines.
• In most instances dogs develop mild symptoms and recover quite well.
• Symptoms can include a mild fever, a soft moist cough, and nasal discharge. But please be aware that these symptoms are not unique to the canine influenza virus and can be caused by any number of respiratory illnesses. If these symptoms do occur the best course of action is to have your regular veterinarian give your dog a full exam and place him on medication if necessary.
• Occasionally these symptoms can progress to a high fever and pneumonia if left unchecked.
• Greyhounds are the only breed that has developed hemorrhagic pneumonia and died.
• A new vaccine for canine influenza is now available. However, due to the relatively short period the vaccine has been available we currently do not stock the vaccine or recommend it.

If you have any further questions regarding canine influenza feel free to send us an email at and we will gladly answer them.