The veterinarians and staff at the Irving Pet Hospital are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

April is Heartworm Awareness Month

Pets and their people love being outside in the summertime - and so do mosquitoes. Because mosquitoes are the most common carriers of heartworm disease, keeping pets up to date on preventive heartworm treatments during mosquito season is especially important.

Heartworm Disease Cycle

Heartworms are exactly that—large worms that live in the hearts of cats and dogs. Known as Dirofilaria Immitis, heartworms are long, spaghetti-like worms that range in size from 6 to 10 inches. Heartworms are almost always transmitted by mosquitoes. A mosquito bites an infected dog or cat; that mosquito picks up microfilariae, a microscopic version of the heartworm. When that mosquito bites your dog or cat, the heartworm microfilariae are transmitted to him / her. Within 70 to 90 days, the microfilariae make it to your pet's heart and, once mature, begin reproducing. The cycle then begins again.

Signs of heartworm disease in pets vary based on the age and species of the pet and the number of worms present. Because the worms are usually located on the right side of the heart and lung, coughing and shortness of breath are common signs in both dogs and cats. Dogs that have just acquired the disease may have no signs, while dogs with a moderate occurrence of the disease may cough and show an inability to exercise. In extreme cases, dogs may experience fainting, weight loss, fever, abdominal swelling and death. In cats, the symptoms of heartworm disease are similar to those of feline asthma, including coughing and shortness of breath. Some cats may exhibit no signs of the disease, while others may suddenly die.

When it comes to preventing heartworm disease, pet owners have a number of options. Before beginning preventive medication, pet owners should have their pets tested for the presence of heartworms. If heartworms are present, a treatment plan should be discussed with your veterinarian. Most heartworm prevention is done by administering your pet a once-a-month heartworm preventive medication. Many of these monthly products are administered as a chewable treat. Some are combined with other preventive medications. Your veterinarian will recommend the product that is best suited for your pet.

If you would like to have your pet tested for heartworm or you would like additional information about the disease, please contact your veterinary hospital.

Common Canine Poisonings: Part II

Ant and Roach Baits

No one likes having ants or roaches in the house, but it is important to remember the potential hazard to your dog by placing baits or traps. The product names vary, and the containers may be referred to as chambers, discs, stations, systems, traps, baits or trays. To attract the insects, most ant and roach baits use an attractant (often peanut butter), a sweetening agent and bread. These baits once contained compounds highly toxic to mammals (arsenic trioxide and lead arsenate); the most common insecticides used in ant and roach baits today are boric acid, avermectin, fipronil, hydramethylnon, propoxur and sulfonamide.

Due to the low concentration of the insecticide and the small size of the bait, serious illness in dogs ingesting the baits is not expected. In many instances, the risk of a foreign body or obstruction from the plastic or metal part of the container is of greater concern than the active ingredients. Signs of ingestion are usually limited to mild gastrointestinal upset and do not require specific treatment.

Rodenticides (rat poison)

Poisons intended to kill rats, mice, gophers, moles and other pesky mammals are among the most common and deadly household poisons. Since rodents and dogs are both mammals, it makes sense that substances highly poisonous to mice, for example, would be lethal to dogs. It cannot be stressed enough that rodenticides are highly toxic and any such poisons designed to kill small mammals need to be carefully stored away from curious canine noses. The poisons usually come in flimsy cardboard containers, and any dog or puppy can chew through it to get the bait.

While there are many categories of rodenticides, the most common poisoning seen in veterinary practice is the anti-coagulant kind. Anti-coagulant rodenticide has ingredient names like warfarin, fumarin, diphacinone and bromadiolone. These poisons act by interfering with a dog's ability to utilize Vitamin K. Without it, a dog's blood is unable to clot, which can ultimately cause severe blood loss, anemia, hemorrhage and death. Generally, clinical signs are not seen until 3-5 days after the dog has ingested the poison. Signs of ingestion are weakness, difficulty breathing, pale mucous membranes, bruising and bleeding from the nose. Other types of rodenticides can cause neurological symptoms such as incoordination, seizures and other cardiac failure.

If accidental ingestion of rat poison is suspected, contact your veterinarian immediately, even if your dog is not showing any symptoms. If possible bring the poison container to the clinic to determine the specific rodenticide ingested and therefore provide the best treatment. Early recognition is critical, as some intoxications can be treated successfully if caught early and treated appropriately.


Spring and fall are the times to fertilize. Unfortunately, it is also the time for accidental poisoning. Dogs often lick their paws, especially after walking outdoors. Because fertilizers are usually a combination of ingredients, several toxic outcomes are possible. In general, the ingredients are poorly absorbed and most clinical signs are related to gastrointestinal irritation showing up as vomiting, hyper salivation, diarrhea or lethargy. The best way to avoid illness or injury is to keep your dog inside while treating your lawn and wait awhile before letting him or her out.

Household Chemicals (hydrocarbons)

Hydrocarbons are in numerous household products, including paints, varnishes, engine cleaners, furniture polish, lighter fluid, lamp oils, paint removers, and fuel oil (e.g. acetone, xylene, kerosene, gasoline, naphtha, mineral oil). Since there are so many possible poisons, the result of ingestion varies widely. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, mild to moderate eye irritation, skin burns, pulmonary damage, pneumonia, depression or excitement, hypoxia, inflammation and liver or kidney damage. Though dogs generally do not enjoy the taste of any of these products, a common cause of ingestion is through drinking out of puddles that contain chemicals or walking through spilled liquids and then licking their paws.

Cleaning Products

This category contains dozens of products used around the home including toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, detergents, caustics (e.g. Drano, Ajax, etc.), pine oils and so forth. These products are often highly poisonous to dogs. The range of chemicals included in cleaning products can cause signs varying widely from mild local irritation (many detergent soaps) to deep penetrating tissue damage (alkaline products) to severe systemic disease (pine oils). Due to the wide range of products, generalized illness is most common along with skin irritation or a burn if contact has been topical instead of ingested. Like rodenticides, it is wise to keep all cleaners tightly closed when not in use and stored in a location where curious canine noses are unable to reach. Also, be sure to keep dogs out of newly cleaned areas to avoid paw injuries from walking in the cleaning solution and mouth burns from subsequent grooming.

How to Care for Your New Puppy or Kitten: Veterinary Visits

Congratulations on your new family member! If you are new to pet ownership or a seasoned veteran, it is important to stay up to date on proper care for your new puppy or kitten.

Vaccination Schedule

Vaccinations (Immunizations) are essential to the health of your pet. The most important vaccines for a pup or kitten are the series of vaccines that he or she receives post-weaning. It is critical to establish and maintain a firm vaccination schedule in order to maximize immunity against a host of debilitating and possibly deadly viruses and bacteria. When you bring your new pet in for its initial examination, a vaccination schedule is planned. For your pet's protection, it is necessary to follow this schedule rigorously. In general, puppies and kittens should be seen several times for examinations and vaccinations, completing the series at about four months of age. During this time, your pet should be provided with de-worming medication and have several fecal examinations in order to ensure that it is free from intestinal parasites. While your puppy or kitten is undergoing its initial series of vaccines, you should try to avoid exposing him or her to other dogs or cats. You should also avoid high traffic areas (streets, parks, and levees) until the vaccination series is complete. Even though your pet may have begun its series of vaccinations, he or she is still susceptible to diseases until all the vaccinations are completed.

Heartworm Preventative

Heartworm Infection is a very serious problem in both dogs and cats. Heartworms are blood parasites that are transmitted by mosquito bites. Once an animal is infected with heartworm, serious damage to the lungs, heart, liver and kidneys can result. The damage caused by heartworm can easily be fatal. If diagnosed early, heartworm disease can be treated. Though there is a treatment for heartworm, the treatment itself can be very difficult for some pets to handle. Fortunately, there are very reliable medications that prevent heartworm infection. Dogs and cats should be kept on a monthly heartworm preventative medication. These medications are not only safe and effective, but several are combined with medications to prevent intestinal parasites and fleas.

Spaying or Neutering

Unless your pet is going to be used for responsible breeding, having it spayed or neutered by six months of age is highly recommended. This helps to avoid the inconvenience of heat cycles in females and provides health and social benefits to both males and females.


A permanent microchip is the most effective way to ensure proper identification of your pet. It is also extremely helpful in the recovery of lost pets. Ask your veterinarian about microchipping your pet.

The Right Way to Calculate Your Pet's Age

If you're like most people, you grew up thinking that to determine how old your dog was in "human years" all you had to do was multiply by seven. So, your cute three-year-old toddler-pooch would actually be of legal drinking age if he were human.

This isn't totally accurate. Dogs age faster than humans during their first few years of life, but then it slows down. This is why dogs are sexually mature by only a year or so; they're actually considered 14 or 15 at age one! While they live longer, smaller breeds tend to mature even faster during their first few years than their larger cousins.

To calculate a dog's relative human age more accurately, its size and lifelong aging rate must be considered. A chart has been published that puts an end to most of the guess work. It includes separate columns for small (20 lbs. or less), medium (21-50 lbs.), large (51-90 lbs.) and giant (over 90 lb.) breeds. Pedigree's website also offers an automatic dog age calculator. Both methods act as guidelines, but owners should consult with their veterinarian regarding the unique aging issues facing their pet. As with humans, the process of aging is different for everyone.

Actual Age of Dog

Small Breed

Age In Human Years

Medium Breed

Age In Human Years

Large Breed

Age In Human Years

Giant Breed

Age In Human Years

1 15 15 14 14
2 23 24 22 20
3 28 29 29 28
4 32 34 34 35
5 36 37 40 42
6 40 42 45 49
7 44 47 50 56
8 48 51 55 64
9 52 56 61 71
10 56 60 66 78
11 60 65 72 86
12 64 69 77 93
13 68 74 82 101
14 72 78 88 108
15 76 83 93 115
16 80 87 99 123

Cats age somewhat similarly to dogs. They mature fastest during their first few years before slowing down. A one-year-old cat is, like a dog, about 15 human years old. At age two, a cat is considered to be in his mid-20s. After that, it's common practice to add four years to find a cat's equivalent age in human years.

Why Does It Matter?

There are a number of reasons why owners should be aware of this variable aging rate. Among the most important is: Puppies are going through their fastest growth for their first year or even two years. During that entire time, puppies should be fed a complete and balanced puppy food. It may seem strange to call an 18-month-old, 60-pound large breed dog a 'puppy,' but that’s what he is.

VIDEO - How To Brush Your Dog's Teeth

Fresh breath isn't just important for humans - your dog needs regular dental cleanings, too. Here's how to keep plaque, gingivitis and doggy breath at bay.

World Veterinary Day is April 30th

Sunday, April 30th is World Veterinary Day for 2016. Started by the World Veterinary Association, World Veterinary Day was started to honor veterinarians and spread awareness of the One Health Concept, which “recognizes that the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the ecosystem are interconnected, and depend on effective and sustained collaboration between human and animal-focused disciplines.”

But what does your veterinarian actually do?

If you think veterinary medicine is about animals, you’re only partially right. Animals don’t call veterinarians. People call veterinarians. The vast range of people and places needing veterinary services include research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, zoos, dairies, swine farms, public health departments, feed industry, livestock industry, and pet owners. Veterinary medicine is a great field because it encompasses so many different areas.

Most people don’t realize how closely human medicine is linked to veterinary medicine. Lifesaving medical advances, in areas from vaccine development to heart surgery, could not have been made without the use of research animals. People may also be unaware of the public services that involve veterinarians. Government agencies from the FDA to state health departments rely on veterinarians to track rabies, foodborne illnesses, and diseases transmitted from animals to people.

Of course, there are many benefits to working closely with animal. One of the pleasures of being a veterinarian is that people who own animals love their animals, whether the animals are horses, pigs, iguanas, or puppies. You are generally dealing with people with empathy who like what they are doing. They recognize that what is best for the animal is also usually best for them.

For more information about World Veterinary Day, check out the World Veterinary Association’s website.

Budgerigars: Do they Empathize or Are They Just Excellent Mimickers?

Yawns are highly contagious between some mammals. Humans, chimpanzees, dogs and one type of rat are all susceptible to the wide-mouthed symptom of boredom or sleepiness; however, catching a yawn is about more than your energy level. Researchers have linked yawn-catching to the capacity for empathy.

“Contagious yawning by itself is not exactly empathy, but it hints at the tendency to mimic and synchronize with the bodies of others,” said Frans de Waal of Emory University in Georgia. “This process is probably the basis of mammalian empathy.”

New research shows budgerigars (also known as parakeets or “budgies”) experience contagious yawning, too. If this is true, the parakeets are the first known non-mammals to exhibit this empathetic behavior.

The Findings

Researchers from the State University of New York observed the behaviors of budgerigars in two studies. For the first study, the parakeets were placed in neighboring cages with and without visual barriers. When they could see each other, the birds demonstrated contagious yawning three times more often within five minutes of witnessing a yawn from their neighbor.

For the second study, the budgies were shown video of another budgie yawning. In this case, the birds watching the video were inspired to yawn every time. Birds shown a video with no yawning still yawned nearly 50% of the time.

A Highly Social Bird

Budgerigars are considered social parrots who are intelligent and clever creatures. More so, they are known for being fantastic mimickers. Like other parrots, they can learn words, sounds and phrases through repetition; however, they can also learn through observation. Many budgie owners have reported their birds learning how to escape from their cages simply by seeing their human open its hatch every day.

Could contagious yawning simply be another form of mimicry? That remains uncertain.

Seemingly empathetic behaviors have, however, been documented in other birds. Crows and jays are said to hold “funerals” when a member of their flock dies. Birds who fly in V-formation take turns in different positions (which all require different amounts of energy expenditure). In addition, birds experience increases in heart rate when flock members experience conflict.

“Until now, most empathy research has been on mammals,” said de Waal. “Empathy may turn out to be a mechanism even more widespread than we think, which is all the more remarkable given that it was thought just one or two decades ago that empathy was uniquely human.”

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