Mendocino Animal HOspital
By Dr. Katy Sommers
Unless you are new to California, you’ve probably already had some personal experience with the dreaded “foxtails”. As humans, we may experience the annoyance of having to painstakingly pluck these nasty plant awns from our socks. For our pets, the consequences of foxtail encounters can be painful, cause serious infections, and can definitely rack up some costly vet bills.
Foxtails have a knack for lodging in almost any orifice (think nose, mouth, ears, vagina) as well as being able to work their way into hidden places, such as behind the third eyelid of a cat or dog. They can push through the sensitive skin between the toes or cling to the undercoat until they pierce the skin and travel to parts unknown in your pet’s body. Sometimes a CT scan is needed to locate deep foxtails that have travelled extensively and must be surgically removed.
This month we may see 5-10 patients in a day with a foxtail issue! A weepy, squinty eye this time of the year is a potential foxtail until proven otherwise, and should be considered an emergency due to the severe pain involved and the potential for doing permanent damage to the cornea. If it’s the end of the day, and your dog begins shaking his head and you suspect a foxtail in an ear, try applying 5-10 drops of mineral or olive oil into the ear until it can be removed. This oil dampens the prickly sharp points of the foxtail and will ease your pet’s pain.
Of course, prevention is the best policy. Mowing, weed whacking, and keeping your critter on groomed trails can help. If you can’t keep your pet out of the foxtails, at least once daily carefully inspect the body, around the ears and especially between the toes. For added prevention, you can also check out the foxtail “hoods” available online (try Outfoxfordogs.com). They look a little goofy but are well tolerated, can be custom fitted, and get great reviews from customers.
If your dog is coming to the clinic for a foxtail removal, or even for a dental cleaning, spay, or other surgery, it’s a smart move to request a “foxtail clip” (an ultra-short hair shave on the feet and a clip of the hairs around the ear canal) which can be done while your dog is sedated.
So don’t underestimate the dangers of the dreaded foxtail. Our abundance of rain this spring has created a healthy crop out there!
By Dr. Katy Sommers
If you read my last blog about Lyme disease in animals, you already know it makes sense to keep your dog free of ticks to prevent Lyme disease. In our area, this might sound easier said than done, as we have a high prevalence for ticks and the Lyme bacteria that ticks transmit. This discussion will cover tips on environmental control, natural tick control measures, topical and oral flea and tick preventatives and the Lyme vaccine.
If you live in the country or have a backyard where wildlife frequent, I recommend reading the tips for habitat control on the Center For Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev.) If you’re walking in the woods, keep your dog on wide paths or roads. Some ticks have been known to wait up to 2 years in a “suspended animation state” on a bush or low limb, just to leap on the next passing mammal.
Natural flea control measures have no side effects and work well for some people. A daily tick check can be a free, natural and effective way to fight Lyme disease. Finding and removing a tick within 24-48 hours is believed to eliminate disease risk. My dogs, Bunny and Chica, have light colored, short hair, making it easy for me to remove crawling or recently attached ticks. They love the attention, and I follow it with a short massage. I use a tissue wipe by VetriScience to help repel ticks before going on a walk, and the inexpensive “Tick Twister” for attached ticks. Both products are available in our lobby.
Many clients find the ease of monthly topical or oral tick control products work best for them. There’s a confusing amount of these products on the market. We change products periodically as we strive to carry the best available in terms of safety, effectiveness, ease of use, and affordability for our clients. We look carefully at published safety data and track records. You will find our doctors recommend specific options based on your dog’s health status and their risk for serious tick borne infections.
If your tick control is ineffective, discuss the Lyme vaccine with our vets. It works by killing the organism inside the attached tick before it can enter your dog’s system. Also consider the blood test offered at yearly health exams, which tells us if your dog has been infected with the Lyme organism.
A quick word about cats: They don’t get Lyme disease. Their excellent grooming skills usually keeps them relatively free of ticks, but you may need to help them with the Tick Twister on the areas they can’t reach, usually the head and neck.
So the ticks are still out there now in a number of areas! Our team is trained and eager to help you with questions about Lyme, so please don’t hesitate to ask.
By Dr. Katy Sommers
The answer is simply, “most likely, yes!” We live in a rural area where wildlife is abundant and ticks are common. A single bite from a tick infected with the nasty little spirochete which causes Lyme disease is all it takes.
But let’s clarify an important fact: Being infected with the Borrelia bacteria from the tick bite isn’t the same as having the disease itself. This is tricky to grasp sometimes, but experts tell us that, unlike in human cases, up to 90% of our dogs that are infected with the Lyme organism show no symptoms at all. In fact, 1 in 16 dogs in our area will have a positive test for Lyme infection, which is often quite a surprise to family members.
Thankfully, the majority of these dogs that test positive will get a “subclinical infection” which never leads to medical issues. However, other dogs may take months to develop symptoms, and sometimes this form of Lyme disease can be deadly. The trouble is, we can’t determine which infected dogs are going to get the actual Lyme disease.
Symptoms can be dramatic, with fever, swollen painful joints and reluctance to move. These are easy to diagnose and we have effective antibiotic treatments, yet some of these dogs may suffer from debilitating and relapsing symptoms. In other dogs, symptoms are vague or resemble symptoms of other diseases, requiring further testing. In these cases, we can see progressive, untreatable kidney or neurologic issues that can be fatal.
Because our dogs reside in a high-risk area, Lyme disease prevention is paramount. Prevention has many aspects and includes avoidance of tick areas, natural tick repellants, timely tick removal, the use of oral or topical tick control medications, and in some cases, Lyme vaccination.
In our next blog, I will explain how you can prevent this disease, and how to choose what combination of options will work best for your situation.
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