Although the worms your pet has are an undesired parasite, at Pacific Animal Hospital we have found ourselves loving another kind of worm: red worms. In order to “green” our hospital more and more, about three months ago we started using a compost bin, now full of red worms.
What kind of worms do you use?
If you happen to be an aficionado of worms, you may already know that the term “earthworm” really refers to two kinds of worms: red worms and night crawlers. If like us you had no clue there were multiple types of worms, the difference is pretty simple. Red worms live close to the surface of soil and enjoy dead leaves and compost. Night crawlers on the other hand, like to dig deep in the soil, creating tunnels to aerate the soil. For composting purposes, red worms are ideal: they eat a lot and reproduce often.
Why would we have them at the hospital?
A great question and one many of the staff asked when we first brought in the compost bin and Ziploc bag of worms. Worms love shredded paper, which dealing in confidential documents we have quite a bit of. With a staff of about 30 people we also make a lot of food waste. Now that we have worms, we save our food waste in a sealable container, and later feed it to the worms. We even have signs that say what food the worms like and what they don’t (our worms love veggies, but hate melons and any type of pods). We love to show people our worms and find it to be a great way to entertain kids while parents are touring the hospital.
Doesn’t this take time away from the hospital?
Thankfully, worms are really low maintenance. Our boarding assistants have taken on the task of caring for our worms. They “water” the worms everyday, make sure they are fed, and watch for over population. In total it’s about five minutes a day, spent caring for the worms.
We have enough worms at this point living in our bin, that we are able to basically eat through all our food waste, and about 75% of our paper shreds. The paper is soaked in water and becomes bedding for them. We also use our worm soil and tea for the plants on the patio, to help them stay low-maintenance.
We have a three tier, 1’ x 1’ bin, so it is small and manageable for the amount of time we have to give them.
What this means for you as a client:
These photos are from when are bin was first started! We were so afraid we wouldn’t be able to keep them alive. Now our worms are thriving and doing great!
Thankfully these worms have no interest in living in the intestinal tract of your pet or our staff! So you can come to the hospital and not have to worry about taking home a new parasite. If you do garden and are looking for some great nutrient rich composted soil, worm tea (essentially concentrated nutrients in liquid form), or worms for gardening or fishing, let us know! Our worms reproduce at such a fast rate that we do often have to “move” some to new homes (or Mel one of our techs goes fishing). If you are interested in free worms, soil, or tea contact us and we will have a baggie put together for you!
We would also like to thank Shel at Vermicoast for supplying us with our first bag of worms and for her help when we were still worrying worm parents!
Although there are a lot of really weird parasites out there, we think heartworms take the cake. A quick Google image search will show you what we mean (searching not recommended for those with a weak stomach*). These odd, little creatures spend their entire lives with one mission: to get to your pet’s heart.
How does my pet contract heartworms?
Heartworms enter into your pet through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes carry heartworms and transfer them through saliva. When they bite your dog or cat, the heartworms travel out of the mosquito and into your pet. They begin as tiny, tiny little worms, invisible to the naked eye.
What do they do to my pet?
Heartworms travel through your pet’s body by breaking into the veins and moving toward the heart. As they travel they begin to grow, both in length and girth. Within a week they can be over an inch long. As they grow they block the passage of blood in the veins. Heartworms eventually lodge in the heart and the large blood vessels surrounding the hear blocking the heart’s ability to get blood through the body, and in some cases, can completely block blood from traveling, causing tissue around those areas to die. They also cause damage the lungs and other organs in the body such as the liver and kidneys.
To learn more about the heartworm process watch this Youtube video:
I have a cat, so this doesn’t matter, right?
Wrong. Cats are also susceptible to heartworm infection. Even cats that never go outside could come into contact with a mosquito that sneaks into your house.
How do I know if my pet has heartworms?
Having your dog tested for heartworm is the best way to find out if your dog is infected. (Unfortunately, we do not have a good screening test for cats.)
Although your pet may not have any signs at first, over time, your pet may show some of the following signs:
- Quickly tired out
- Weight loss
- And a lack of interest in normal activities
By the time these signs are apparent, there is already significant damage to your pet’s organs. Testing for heartworm will catch the disease early before the damage is severe.
How do I treat or prevent heartworms?
The best option is always prevention. If you are unsure about your pet’s heartworm status, give us a call. A quick blood test can let us know if your dog is heartworm positive or negative. Once this is established, you have a choice in either oral or injectable preventative medicines. We have a convenient 6-month injectable medicine called Proheart which can be given at the hospital. It is a great option because you do not have to remember to give it every month. Trifexis, which kills fleas, intestinal parasites, and heartworms, is the most popular monthly, oral medication option.
Revolution is a monthly topical preventative for cats. If you have questions about heartworm disease in cats, please give us a call and your pet’s doctor can go over it with you.
If your pet is heartworm positive, there is a treatment available. However the treatment can be lengthy, expensive, and unfortunately there are serious health risks with treatment. Preventing heartworm is much safer for your pet and easy with the medications available today.
To see what your dog’s heartworm status is, give us a call to set up a time for you to come in with your pet for a blood test. In about 5 minutes, we can test and give you results. If negative, your pet can start heartworm prevention immediately and be safe and protected from this devastating parasite.
A scary thought indeed. Vaccinations have become such a large part of pet care that it’s surprising to think that as pet parents we may actually be over vaccinating. In order to ensure your pet’s health care is just what they need, it is important to meet with your veterinarian regularly and become educated about what your dog really needs. To do this, we as your doctor, and you as the dog-parent can make decisions together regarding what treatments your dog receives, based on his or her age, breed, and lifestyle. One area where many pets end up “over cared for” is vaccines.
For years, the veterinary industry told clients that their dogs needed to be vaccinated every year and for a long time that was a belief held by doctors all across the country. Several years ago, research and better quality vaccines came out that allowed veterinarians to begin a more spread out vaccination schedule. Sadly, many places that do “quick” vaccines, or who have no relationship to you or your furry loved one, will happily vaccinate your pooch for anything and everything regardless of what is actually needed. At Pacific Animal Hospital, we encourage you to be an educated pet-parent and find out what they need and when. If you are unsure call! We’ll happily tell you.
As time passes, veterinarians and pet-parents have been encouraged to talk to each other about their pet’s age, behavior and lifestyle and decide together what vaccines are actually needed. Although some vaccines do still require an annual dosage, not all of them do and depending on your dog’s specifics, they may need fewer vaccines than you originally thought.
Here is the quick and easy guide to your dog’s vaccine options:
If Old Yeller taught us anything, it’s that your dog needs to be vaccinated against Rabies. In addition to the terrifying effects of rabies (possible uncontrollable aggression, severe illness and certain death plus it can be transmitted to people), many counties and states have laws regarding pets being vaccinated against rabies.
When to vaccinate:
- Puppies need the vaccine once at 16 weeks, followed by a booster one year later.
- Adult dogs need the vaccine every three years after the initial booster.
Like every good medical acronym, DHPP stands for a host of really bad for your dog illnesses, including: Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvo. The good news is this vaccine packs quadruple protection, but doesn’t cost four times as much as a regular, single-illness vaccine.
When to vaccinate:
- Puppies are born with a certain amount of immunity from their mother, which is great, except that they quickly lose the mommy-immunity. To help them develop their own, strong immunity, they need to receive a series of at least two to three DHPP doses (depending on age of the puppy) to ensure they are fully protected. If you are unfamiliar with the awful effects any of the DHPP illnesses can have on your precious new baby, ask your doctor or technician –the symptoms are unpleasant to say the least!
- Adult dogs need to be vaccinated for DHPP as a one-year booster, and then every three years after that.
These are core vaccines which are recommended for all dogs. The need for other vaccines is based on behavior and lifestyle. That being said, we highly recommend that you talk with your doctor and technician before deciding to get any of these vaccines, as your dog may not need them.
Also known as “kennel cough”, Bordetella is common amongst puppies and any dog that is boarding or hangs around areas where they may come in contact with other dogs (neighborhood walks, dog parks, dog beach, grooming salons). You may have read our recent blog all about Bordetella, and if not, check it out. This nasty doggie-cold can knock your pooch on his bum quickly.
When to vaccinate:
- Puppies need to receive a series of two vaccines.
- Adults need this annually, and possibly semi-annually depending on lifestyle and which boarding facility or groomer you use (some require it more frequently than others)
There are also several vaccines that are related to behavior or geographic location, such as Leptospirosis, Lyme, and Influenza vaccines. If your pet travels, goes into wooded areas frequently, or is at risk due to lifestyle, your pet may need one of these additional vaccines. Just talk with your PAH doctor or technician and they can further assess with you if the vaccine is truly needed. For more information regarding vaccines and what they are for, check out our blog or our website.