Dog Smarts: Getting Outside and Staying Healthy

Spring and Summer mean more excuses to get outside with your dog. And The Watering Bowl is obviously a huge proponent of more play and more socialization.

But we do notice an uptick in things like ticks.

Not to worry, it’s all part of the territory. And while we love to play, we aren’t veterinarians.

That’s why we turn to the esteemed Dr. Edward Migneco from Hillside Animal Hospital to tell us what to look for and how best to remain healthy and active.

Dr. Ed has 30 years of experience with an emphasis on dogs and cats. And we are thrilled to have his wisdom to share with you in this month’s edition of Dog Smarts.

So, we’ll get right to it.


Dr. Ed of Hillside Animals HospitalDogs get diarrhea from time to time. What are the most common causes? 

The most common cause of diarrhea in dogs is most likely dietary indiscretion. This means the dog has eaten something that has upset the GI tract and especially the normal bacterial flora of the GI tract. Of course as discussed earlier, intestinal parasites are another common cause of diarrhea in dogs. The most common being intestinal worms, but we also see cases of another intestinal parasite called Giardia. And of course we see a fair number of dogs, where despite extensive testing, the exact cause of the diarrhea goes undetermined. It still means that the cause could be one of the ones mentioned previously. It’s just that the tests did not prove it. In those cases we treat for the most common cause until proven otherwise.


When is a visit to the vet necessary due to diarrhea?

If a dog develops diarrhea, I always recommend withholding food for 12 to 24 hours to slow down the GI tract, and in some cases it will resolve on its own. If the diarrhea continues longer than that or if vomiting or anorexia develop, then a visit to the veterinarian is warranted. Dogs can dehydrate quickly if the diarrhea is severe enough, no matter what the cause of the diarrhea is.


Do you see more of these in the spring and summer?

Yes most of these parasites are more commonly seen in the spring and summer. Dogs are more active and spend more time outside, so there is more chance for exposure. The increased numbers of dogs outside, including those who are not on preventative every month, increases the chance of passing on these parasites to other susceptible dogs.


What are the symptoms and how do dogs pick them up?

The symptoms of Heartworms are going to be lethargy, coughing, possibly some vomiting and shortness of breath if severe enough of an infestation. Heartworms are only transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes. The parasite undergoes part of its life cycle in the mosquito.

Fleas are going to cause severe itching, and usually hair loss secondary to the itching. The hair loss is most common on the dorsal back, base of tail, and down the rear legs. If a dog has a large number of fleas they can become anemic from the blood loss. Fleas obviously come from being around another animal who has fleas and are easily transmitted from one dog to another.

Intestinal parasites are most commonly going to cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. The signs can be intermittent or can occur very frequently. The diarrhea can be just soft and semi-formed, or it could be very liquid, and will often have frank blood noticeable. Enough of a load of intestinal parasites can cause weight loss, anemia, poor hair coat, and poor body condition.


What common parasites do you see in our area that make dogs sick? 

The most common parasites that affect dogs in our areas are Heartworms, Fleas, and Intestinal parasites such as Roundworms, Hookworms, Tapeworms, and Whipworms. Any of these can make dogs sick, some more seriously than others. The most important to realize is that all of these can be prevented very easily though with monthly preventatives.


Is a visit to the vet always necessary or will she get better on her own?

Once a dog gets infected with any of these parasites, they cannot get rid of them on their own. All can be cleared with medication, but it is prescription medication which must be prescribed by a veterinarian.


When should she go to the vet? 

A dog should be taken to the vet when any of the following signs is noted by the owner. These include any signs of GI problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and anorexia. These can be signs of gastro-intestinal parasites and can be treated effectively with the right medications. But they can be serious or even deadly if left untreated.


What can mom and dad do to help prevent this?

 All of these parasites can be prevented very easily with any of the monthly preventatives available from your veterinarian.

The most popular are HeartGard Plus, a chewable Heartworm and Intestinal parasite preventative that comes in a chewable form that is taken once a month. For fleas and ticks, the newest product is now also a chewable treat called NexGard which is also taken once a month. There are also several other options including spot-on liquids preventatives, such as Frontline Plus, which are equally effective. Which preventative you choose is a matter of personal choice.

And it’s most important to remember is that these products are 100% guaranteed if purchased from a veterinarian.


Does the HeartGard Plus, a chewable Heartworm and Intestinal parasite preventative, also protect against Giardia?

No. There is no preventive for giardia.


Are certain types of worms also more prevalent this time of year?  If so, what type and when should owners be concerned?   

Any of these intestinal parasites are more likely to be transmitted to other dogs during the warmer months. There is increased outdoor activity, and the parasites are more likely to survive longer in the environment, so these factors increase the risk of exposure.

As far as heartworms go, it has been proven that mosquitoes can hatch at any time of the year. It is just that their life cycle is shortest during the warmest months of the year. For this reason, year round prevention is strongly recommended.

The same goes for flea and tick protection. If your dog is on monthly heartworm prevention, then it should also be covered as far as intestinal parasites are concerned.

So it just makes sense on both levels for your dog to be on a monthly preventative.