Category Archives: Dogs

Ticks! How to prevent them.

A persistent threat to the health of dogs comes from organisms contained within ticks. These small arachnids are common in many landscapes – from forests, to tall grasses, and especially along the coast. While fleas may be a nuisance and most commonly cause itching and tapeworms, ticks spread much more potent and insidious pathogens.

What makes them so dangerous is that they are hard to find. They can be tiny – almost pin-head size up to about half an inch. Ticks can be anywhere on your dog – they have heat-seeking abilities, enabling them to locate your dog, and then they attach to warmer parts of the body. They are excellent at hide-and-seek. The head, neck, and ears are common attachment points. We have seen them between the toes frequently, along with being in the groin, or even on eyelids and lips. When looking for ticks, look, feel, and repeat several times. Don’t forget to inspect inside the ears, too! They are betting that you and the dog will miss them.

Ticks lay in wait on the ends of branches and grasses waiting for you or your dog to walk past. When the branch is disturbed, it lets go and attaches to the dog. This process is know as questing. While they are good at finding a warm body, they cannot jump (thankfully). Once on the dog, it attaches and begins to suck blood. They use blood proteins to grow and mature. Many species of tick can be waiting for the right animal to pass by for over a year and a half without eating. They are patient. And they are waiting.

A tick may feed on a dog for a number of days. When they bite ticks inject saliva into the area, causing mild swelling and increased blood flow. The injection of saliva is what we are most concerned about – living within the salivary glands of many species of tick are infectious organisms. These bugs flow into the dog with the saliva and it usually takes 24 hours for a tick to transmit most diseases, which provides us with time to identify and remove or kill the tick.

Common diseases carried by ticks in the Washington, Maryland, and Virginia areas include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis, tick paralysis and others. These organisms can cause a variety of ailments, from arthritis-like signs, to fevers, clotting problems, and even death.

It is important to remove ticks when they are found. Transmission of most diseases does not happen until the tick has been attached to a dog for about a day. Gently grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it directly off. Try to not crush the tick and use tweezers, if available.

Check your dog after every walk, especially after strolling through the woods or grasslands. This is the first line of defense. Next, use an effective flea / tick preventive. Owing to our mid-Atlantic environment, appropriate preventives should be used year-round. Preventives include topical applications, collars, and oral chews. The preventives work to rapidly kill ticks that bite dogs, with the goal of killing them before they have the opportunity to transmit disease.

We recommend use of an oral chew such as Simparica or NexGard for several reasons. First is simplicity – you know the dog ate it and second they have beens down to be highly effective. The topicals can lose effectiveness if your dog is bathed often or if the dog swims frequently. Another option is a collar, such as Seresto. It is long-lasting and has been shown to be quite effective, as well. These preventives, although useful, are not 100% effective and you should always practice good tick hygiene and inspect your dog frequently.

Tick-borne disease is common in our area. Please use appropriate caution to prevent your pup from getting a tick-borne disease. And if you have any concerns about ticks, do not hesitate to contact us or your regular veterinarian.

Dan Teich, DVM
Medical Director
District Veterinary Hospitals

How to prevent fleas

Warmth! Rain! Spring! Fleas! It is that time again, my friends, that time where fleas emerge from dormancy and become a nuisance. While fleas are active all year here in the District Metropolitan Area, they can become a menace when the temperatures are consistently above fifty degrees. Let’s understand the flea life cycle and how… Continue Reading

Identify your pet! Use a chip and a tag

Buster is lost in the woods. Felix ran out an open door. Blossom was spooked by fireworks. All are missing and their people are in panic mode. How do they get back home? Countless pets go missing each year, ten million dogs annually, as estimated by the ASPCA. Fifteen percent of households in a large… Continue Reading

Knee injuries in dogs: The CCL tear

Dogs are prone to many orthopedic injuries, but none is as common as rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). The knee is a complex joint, composed of a number of ligaments and cartilage padded areas. When there is damage to the CCL, the knee becomes unstable, leading to discomfort, damage to the cartilage, and… Continue Reading

Why we ask for poop!

“And please remember to bring a fecal sample.” Whenever a client schedules a wellness or sick pet visit, our front staff requests they bring a fresh stool sample. We are not fascinated by your pets’ poop, per se, but are concerned about your pets’ well-being and the potential for transmission of parasites to people. That… Continue Reading

Diabetes Affects Dogs and Cats

Diabetes Mellitus Diabetes ranks high amongst chronic diseases in humans and pets. While most people know that diabetes concerns the amount of sugar within the blood, they are unaware of why it occurs and how it is treated. The disease in pets closely parallels that of humans and is treated in much the same manner.… Continue Reading

Lyme Disease – An Annual Invasion

Lyme disease Be prepared for an invasion. Not from across the ocean, but from little critters hitching a ride on mice: ticks. Each year the territory of ticks carrying Lyme disease appears to be spreading, and urban and suburban environments are ripe for the reason they spread: mice. While traditionally people have blamed Lyme disease… Continue Reading

Senior Dogs in the Winter – Keep Them Active!

Winter may be harder on senior dogs than the balmy warmer months of summer. Sure, it is cooler and we do not have to worry about heat stroke, but arthritis is worsened by the cold, their level of exercise decreases, boredom sets in, and there are routine winter hazards. The importance of mental and physical… Continue Reading

Canine Arthritis Management

The most common source of chronic pain in dogs is arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. Arthritis develops with age in many dogs, but can also begin earlier in life in dogs with hip or elbow dysplasia or as the consequence of an injury. In a select few cases, surgery may be of benefit,… Continue Reading

Pet Insurance – There Are Benefits

As time has progressed, I have become a fan of pet health insurance. More clients are asking about the benefits and limitations of policies and we have seen a number of clients’ pets receive care that the client would otherwise have not have been to provide without an insurance plan. It is not a panacea… Continue Reading