County Shelter Temporarily Closed Due to Respiratory Disease

Dear Volunteers, Partners, Veterinarians, and Stakeholders,

Staff from HCAS recently attended the Maddie’s Fund Shelter Medicine Conference in Jacksonville and learned about new research on upper respiratory viruses including a new PCR test from Cornell University. Upon their return, staff decided to proactively gather eleven samples from dogs with and without clinical symptoms of upper respiratory infections (URI) and submit them to Cornell University. This weekend, we received the results, which revealed the presence of coronavirus and pneumovirus in the shelter. It is not possible to say when this virus may have entered the shelter because tests for them were not available to us before.

I have attached a handout from the University of Florida Shelter Medicine program on these viruses. The pneumovirus is significant because it lasts longer, is more contagious, and can sometimes cause pneumonia or other complications. The pneumovirus was first discovered in 2010 and has been reported in only a few Florida communities, Maryland, New York, and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for the virus.

For the shelter, this is significant because, in order to break the virus cycle, animals must be quarantined and intake limited. For these reasons, the following steps will be taken for the next two weeks or until a veterinarian determines that the shelter has broken the infection cycle:

– Dog intake at the shelter and in the field will be limited to dangerous dogs, dogs that have bitten a person, and sick or injured dogs.

– Owner surrender dogs will not be accepted – they will be asked to contact other shelters and rescue groups, rehome the dog if possible, or hang on to the dog for a few weeks.

– Dogs will not be allowed to leave the shelter until veterinarians determine that they do not present a risk; dogs with adoption and rescue applications will be sheltered and treated medically if necessary. The shelter will not euthanize to control the disease. However, some amount of euthanasia will occur due to the regular disposition process (e.g., bite releases, animals not responding to medical treatment, etc.)

– The public will be asked to help support the shelter by keeping stray animals and posting flyers and signs as well as using electronic media to search for owners (e.g., Craigslist, neighborhood association newsletters, etc.)

– The pubic will be asked to search for pets on-line first, and only come to the shelter if they think that their dog may be here. Staff will escort them around the shelter.

– We will not be walking any dogs until further notice in order to be extra cautious.

IMPORTANT: Cat intake, adoption, rescue, and returns-to-owner will continue as usual. These viruses are not contagious to cats.

Lastly, one of the dogs tested very lightly for distemper. The University of Florida says that this may just be the result of vaccinating the dog. The dog was adopted out on 11/1/13 and went home with antibiotics for a slight cough. However, the owner reports that the cough is going away and that the dog is very active and has a big appetite. A veterinary technician and an animal control officer visited the adopter today to observe the dogs condition and gather a second sample, which will confirm or deny the presence of distemper. We hope to have those results by early next week.

If you are fostering a dog from us, have recently rescued a dog from us, or have a dog at home with any upper respiratory symptoms, please let your veterinarian know about this information.

We will continue to update you on changes to our operations as well as new information about the viruses. Please keep in mind that we have seen a decrease in URI in the shelter and as reported by the veterinary community through post adoption surveys. The test results reflect what viruses are in our community and not an increase in illness.

Thank you for your support as we undertake a massive effort to rid the shelter of this virus.

Sincerely,

Ian Hallett, MPA
Director of Animal Services
Hillsborough County BOC
office: (813) 744-5350
fax: (813) 612-914
Please note: all correspondence to or from this office is subject to Florida’s Public Records laws.

Fall Facebook Pet Photo Contest

Calling all photogenic pets (and owners)!

Submit your pet’s cutest photo in our Fall Facebook Pet Photo Contest today! All you have to do is follow these easy steps to enter:

1.) Post your pets fall related pet photo on our Facebook wall. Fall related means: Pets in costumes, pumpkin patches, fall leaves, or this seasons fall fashion colors.

2.) Invite your Facebook followers to visit our Facebook wall from 10/28/2013 – 11/15/2013 and “LIKE” your pet’s photo.

The photo which receives the most “LIKES” will win BIG!

The Rules: Photo must be uploaded to our Facebook wall (not tagged or shared). Previous Facebook contest winners are not eligible to win but can still share their photo with us on Facebook. Must be a current client of Veterinary Medical Clinic, Inc.

All About Feline Heart Disease

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

FELINE CARDIOMYOPATHY IS A SERIOUS DISEASE THAT CAN BE DIFFICULT TO DIAGNOSE IN ITS EARLY STAGES. OLDER CATS, ESPECIALLY MIDDLE-AGED MALES, ARE THE ONES THAT ARE MOST AT RISK.

Cardiomyopathy, which literally means “disease of the heart muscle,” is one of the most common problems to affect the feline heart.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common form of feline cardiomyopathy.

In addition to not being able to pump enough blood, the heart of a cat affected by HCM can suffer other abnormalities. Blood clots can form in the upper chamber of the heart, the left atrium. Unable to empty properly into the left ventricle, the left atrium becomes enlarged with extra blood, which begins to sludge and then clot. The resulting “atrial clots” or pieces of them, might then be pushed into the cat’s bloodstream. The risk that a clot might lodge in a smaller blood vessel is great; one of the most common sites for such an event is the area where the aorta splits at its end to supply blood to each rear leg. When a clot lodges here, the cat becomes acutely paralyzed in one or both back legs. The condition is very painful and often results in death or euthanasia.

Another potential complication of HCM is that the added muscle mass of the heart can predispose a cat to an arrhythmia, an abnormal heartbeat pattern that can potentially cause sudden and unexpected death.

Detection can be very difficult, especially early in the course of disease when clinical signs are absent or subtle at best. Careful examination by a veterinarian might possibly reveal a rapid heart rate, perhaps accompanied by a heartbeat irregularity called a gallop rhythm.

Other form of heart murmurs might also suggest the need for a more extensive cardiology examination that could lead to a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy.

As the heart disease progresses, the signs of it become more dramatic. A cat might be presented to a veterinarian because he is having trouble breathing. Cats with heart failure often have difficulty breathing as the heart begins to fail and the lung tissue and/or chest cavity fills with fluid that seeps from the backed-up veins.

The most dramatic symptom of cardiomyopathy is the sudden death of a cat whose symptoms have gone undetected and whose illness is undiagnosed.

Abnormalities detected during a physical examination can arouse a veterinarian’s suspicion that cardiomyopathy exists, but a definitive diagnosis requires examination of the heart itself. Radiographs (X-rays) can demonstrate the “valentine” shape of the dilated heart of DCM.

An electrocardiograph (ECG) can be employed to detect whether any life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia exist.

Blood test may help identify impairment of major organs that has resulted from a lack of oxygen supply, or from clot formation. A urinalysis can detect concurrent urinary system disease, which may complicate therapy.

The treatment for cardiomyopathy depends on the form diagnosed and the state of disease. Therapy really does depend on the severity of the clinical signs, the body’s reaction to the disease, and the patient’s ability to compensate.

Older cats, especially those middle-aged males who are most at risk, may also successfully hide their symptoms until it’s too late to help them. Those cats whose caretakers are aware of the existence of cardiomyopathy and work with their veterinarian to assess their cat’s risk stand the best chance of surviving this significant heart disease when it does occur.

All About Ear Infections

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Why do some dogs get ear infections over and over while others are never troubled by them?  There are many causes for ear infections, including excessive moistness in the ears, the presence of mites or bacteria, and skin allergies.  Normal ears contain bacterial and yeast in appropriate amounts, but if these yeast or bacteria levels get out of balance, the result can be an ear infection.

Breeds that are prone to ear infections include those with very moist ears, such as Cocker Spaniels, or those prone to skin allergies, such as West Highland White Terriers and Scottish Terriers.  Dogs with weak or insufficient immune systems may also suffer frequent ear infections.  And almost any breed with long, droopy ears can be prone to ear problems.  Basset Hounds head the list, with English Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, and Chinese Shar-Pei following close behind.  Dogs whose ears contain a great deal of hair, such as Poodles, Schnauzers and Old English Sheepdogs frequently have ear problems as well.

TREATMENT – Veterinarians diagnose ear infections by examining the ear with an otoscope to check for foreign bodies or taking a sample of discharge and examining it under a microscope to identify bacteria, yeast or parasites.

Your veterinarian can provide a topical antibacterial or anti-fungal agent to help clear up the problem.  If mites are an issue, the veterinarian will prescribe a medication aimed specifically at killing them.  Be sure to give all the medication prescribed even after the ear appears to be better, because if the dog doesn’t get the full treatment, the infection can pop right back up again.

When infections are complicated by deep soft-tissue involvement, oral antibiotics may be necessary.  Underlying allergies will require appropriate treatment as well.  Often, treatment is intense for initial control, and regular treatment is needed for the rest of the dog’s life to avoid recurrences.

Serious and persistent infections sometimes require more drastic measures.  In some cases, the dog may need to be anesthetized several times so the ear canal can be flushed and debris removed.

If ear canals become thickened and narrowed after many infections, surgery to remove part or all of the outer ear canal may be the best option for humane management.  Opening up the ear canal improves air circulation and makes treatment more effective.

PREVENTION – Even if your dog is prone to ear infections, you can take steps to help prevent them:

  • Check the ears weekly, especially if your dog has floppy ears.
  • Clean the ears with a veterinarian-recommended solution recommended.
  • Trim excess hair.
  • Use drying agents when indicated.
  • Control fleas.

Remember that many ear infections are chronic and can only be managed, not cured.

If an ear infection recurs, don’t assume that the same medication you used last time will work again.  The organisms and ear environment can be different from one infection to another, so see your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis.

Source: Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine

Don’t Ignore Warning Signs of Cancer in Pets

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Cancer is the ungoverned growth of cells on or within the body. The terms “cancerous” and “malignant” are synonymous. The term “tumor” refers to a cancerous local growth. Tumors are characterized by rapid growth and local invasion into surrounding tissues. Tumors may also metastasize, that is spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to distant sites within the body. The lungs are a very common site for tumor metastasis. The prognosis for tumors is often most dependent on whether they have metastasized prior to the diagnosis.

Many signs of illness would prompt a suspicion of cancer among a host of other problems.

Cancer warning signs include foul odor, persistent lameness, difficulty urination or defecating, abnormal growth, weight loss, bleeding, wounds that won’t heal, difficulty breathing, weakness and lethargy.

Fatigues is definitely a sign to watch out for that most people might miss.

To catch the disease in the early stages, dog & cat owners need to be alert to changes in their pet’s behavior and seek medical care as soon as possible. By the time cancer is discovered, it can be fairly advanced, and a cure isn’t always possible.

There are no preventive measures to ensure your dog doesn’t get cancer, but spaying before the first heat will almost completely remove the risk of mammary cancer. Testicular tumors in dogs are common, but when dogs are neutered, the risk is eliminated.

Breeds at Risk

Certain breeds seem more susceptible to inherited types of cancer. In some forms of cancer, body type is also important. Larger or giant breeds have a higher incidence of bone cancer. Dogs with dark skin are more susceptible to melanomas.

Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers are at risk for lymphoma and osteosarcoma. Scottish Terriers and Shelties are susceptible to bladder cancer. Bernese Mountain dogs tend to contract lymphoma, mast cell tumors and histiocytosis, a rare cancer, which oncologists treat with chemotherapy and radiation.

Cancer is not one disease, so the breed and cancer associations are endless.

Today cancer is now one of the most common causes of death in pets.

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine

Your Medications May or May Not Be Appropriate For Your Pet

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Many human medications are the same as dog medications.  A pet owner might be inclined to give the pet a dose of a human medicine when their veterinarian may not be available to advise.

Unless your pet’s doctor has given specific instructions about which medications and how much to give, you should avoid the temptation.  Your well intended act has the potential to harm your pet.

A drug like aspirin or another NSAID (like Advil or Motrin) might in some cases, cause severe bleeding and/or damage to the stomach wall.  The metabolism of drugs in dogs and cats can differ from that in humans, which means that the standard dose of human pain reliever included in one tablet or capsule may be an overdose for your pet.

A medication prescribed for your dog should never be given to any other species of pet without the specific direction of your veterinarian.

Davis Island Fest

Davis Island Fest 2013

Harbour Island Art Walk

Harbour Island Art Walk from 12 pm – 5 pm.

Caring for an Older Cat

A 10-year-old cat is equivalent to a 56-year-old human, and from then on each cat year equals four human years.  The average cat’s life span is around 15 to 20 years.  That’s the longest it’s ever been in their evolutionary history, because we shelter our pets from many potential risk like disease, fights, and predators.  Indoor cats live longer.

Older cats are prone to common health problems, including deteriorating eyesight and hearing, reduced strength and agility, constipation, tooth decay and stiffness.  More serious illnesses can include cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.  Prevention is the key for all of these, and many of these illnesses are treatable.  Regular veterinarian visits are always important, but are more critical in older pets.

Holiday Pet Hazards

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Holiday Pet Hazards Article by Eddie Garcia, D.VM. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic and Feline Wellness Center

The following is a list of the common holiday hazards that bring many pet owners to veterinary clinics.  All of them can be avoided with some simple precautions.         

Chocolate:  It is in our baking projects as well as in wrapped gifts that end up under the tree.  Pets often get into chocolate by chewing into a wrapped gift, the contents of a person may not even be aware.  To avoid what may be a fatal exposure, keep all chocolate out of reach, never place wrapped chocolate under a holiday tree and don’t be shy about asking gift givers if a gift they place under your tree contains any chocolate.  The stimulants that give us the “chocolate buzz” can cause diarrhea, vomiting and fatal heart arrhythmias in our furry friends.

Antifreeze:  Commonly used in the winter holiday months as we prepare our automobiles for cold weather.  Products containing ethylene glycol are fatal when even small amounts are swallowed.  Because they are typically sweet in taste, many dogs will drink antifreeze straight or in puddles combined with water.  Cats may walk through it and then lick the antifreeze off their paws.  Permanent, irreversible kidney damage results from these exposures and can be fatal.  Prevention is simple if you clean spills immediately and purchase newer products that don’t contain ethylene glycol.  They are marked “pet safe.”

Many of our favorite holiday foods contain more fats and bones than foods we eat the rest of the year.   Giving fats and bones can trigger bad cases of stomach upset or can result in life threatening obstructions or pancreatitis.  It’s helpful to keep extra “safe” treats around the house during the holidays so that you can cheat with extras that won’t be a threat to your pet’s health.

Weather:  If a pet is going to spend considerable time outdoors in the cold, it may have a higher calorie requirement; so a little extra food may be warranted.  Whenever it is 30F or colder, bring in all animals to prevent frostbite.

Ornaments:  Many animals will eat tree ornaments, tinsel and candles.  Prevent hazards by keeping young, unsupervised puppies out of harm’s way of all ornaments and use care when burning candles so that tails and long hair don’t accidentally cause fire hazards.  Never leave a candle burning on a coffee table with unsupervised pets.  Sweep up any broken ornaments immediately and vacuum well to prevent exposure to sharp shards.

If you follow these simple recommendations, you and all of your pets should enjoy a peaceful and healthy holiday season.

For more information on Holiday Pet Hazards you can visit the following resources:

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