AHNA Recommendations for Keeping Your Dog Healthy and Avoiding Parasite Transmission to Humans

An Annual Comprehensive Wellness Exam is one of the most important things you can do for your pet. Even if your pet has had several veterinary visits during the year due to illness or other problems, please make sure to bring your pet in for his or her annual wellness exam.  This comprehensive exam is a much more thorough physical and dental examination than can be done during an illness visit, and will focus on every aspect of care of your pet as a whole with recommendations outlined for keeping your pet healthy. Important parasite preventatives and other medications will be discussed and renewed, and you will also be given the latest information for preventing health problems in your pet. This is a time to address medical, behavioral, nutritional, surgical, and dental concerns and to update any prescriptions. Dogs age faster than humans, so a complete physical once a year for your dog is similar to a person having a complete physical every seven years. Once pets reach the age of seven to ten years (50 to 70 in human years), it is recommended that your pet have a comprehensive exam every six months which is like a human having a physical every three years.

A Note about Dental Care:  Oral infection associated with the formation of plaque and tartar on and under the gums is the most common disease in dogs and cats in America.  75% of dogs and cats suffer from periodontal disease by age 3 and it worsens with age.  Periodontal disease not only affects the teeth and gums, toxins and inflammatory products produced by the bacteria in the plaque, tartar and gums also damage important organs, especially the liver and kidneys, decreasing the health, comfort and longevity of your pet. Most pets greatly benefit from daily brushing at home starting as early as six weeks of age and by the very important yearly professional dental cleanings performed under anesthesia. Providing your pet with the care needed for a healthy mouth means your pet lives in the same comfort that you probably take for granted. 

What to bring:

We want your pet’s visit to be a positive experience, so it is important for us to give treats during the visit.  If your pet has dietary restrictions or a sensitive stomach, please bring treats from home that will agree with your pet.  Otherwise, we will provide treats for your pet. If your pet has a toy or blanket he or she likes, feel free to bring it along. Please bring a list of the medications that your pet takes and, if possible, bring a small one inch portion of bowel movement and a urine sample in separate clean containers. The samples should be less than 24 hours old and the urine sample should be kept refrigerated.

Vaccinations:  The vaccine needs of your dog will be determined during your pet’s annual comprehensive examination as you discuss with your pet’s veterinarian the activities and environmental factors specific to your pet.  At Animal Hospital of North Asheville, we believe in vaccinating as infrequently as possible and only for the diseases that your pet is at risk for. To ensure the best protection for your pet, our protocols and vaccine manufacturers are constantly updated using information from noted specialty boards, specialists, and organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association. Our vaccinations are divided into two groups, those that all dogs need and those that only dogs engaging in certain activities or living in certain environments need.

All dogs in Asheville, NC need the following vaccinations:

Rabies: You are required by NC law to keep your dog currently vaccinated against rabies. Even pets that never go outside must be kept vaccinated. Please be careful to never let this vaccine lapse! If your pet’s rabies vaccine has expired and he or she is even possibly exposed to rabies, law enforcement will either seize your pet for a six-month quarantine (away from you) at your expense or can require euthanasia in order to eliminate the risk of transmission to humans.  Raccoons, bats, foxes and coyotes, which are all abundant in WNC, are all reservoirs for the rabies virus.  If you think your dog has been possibly exposed to or bitten by a wild or potentially rabid animal, talk with your veterinarian immediately and report it to the local animal control authorities. If your pet has been bitten by an unknown or unvaccinated animal (wild or domestic), your dog must, by law, receive a booster vaccine within 5 days, even if your dog’s rabies vaccination has not expired yet.            

Distemper, Adenovirus, and Parainfluenza: Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease of dogs and other animals such as raccoons, ferrets and skunks. Coughing and sneezing can spread the virus.   Symptoms included upper respiratory and neurological symptoms and the disease is often fatal. Vaccines are highly effective. Adenovirus is an infectious viral disease that causes upper respiratory symptoms, pneumonia, or severe (even fatal) liver disease.  Parainfluenza virus is one of the most common causes of infectious tracheobronchitis. It is extremely contagious from dog to dog, and in severe cases can lead to pneumonia and death.

Parvovirus: Parvovirus is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease of puppies and unvaccinated adult dogs. This virus is transmitted by direct contact with an infected dog, infected feces or an otherwise contaminated environment. This virus, which can live for months to years in the environment, causes fever, severe vomiting and diarrhea (often but not always containing blood), and life-threatening dehydration.

The following vaccines are administered according to the individual needs of the patient.

Bordetella: ”Kennel Cough” is a broad term covering any infectious or contagious conditions in dogs where coughing is a feature. Bordetella is a bacterial organism that causes the most serious kennel cough infections. While we cannot prevent every cause of contagious cough in dogs, we recommend yearly vaccination against Bordetella for almost all dogs due to the highly contagious nature of the disease. Dogs do not have to be kenneled to be affected by kennel cough; it got this name because it spread so fast through boarding kennels before there was a vaccine. It can spread without any direct contact between dogs. This vaccine is administered through the mouth.

Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease that affects virtually all mammals including humans. It has a broad range of clinical effects from mild infections to multiple-organ failure and death.  It has been an increasing concern due to the growing populations of wildlife. Your veterinarian will help you decide if your dog is in a higher risk lifestyle and should receive the vaccine.

Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is one of the most common tick transmitted diseases in the world. We recommend this vaccine if you are traveling to an area with a high incidence of Lyme disease. The organism that causes Lyme disease is carried by a specific tick, the Deer Tick, that is now moving into WNC, so please be careful to keep all ticks off your pets.

Canine Influenza (H3N8):

Canine influenza is an emerging respiratory disease. It is a highly contagious disease to dogs who are exposed. Dogs who are around groups of dogs such as frequent trips to doggie daycare, kennels, groomers, agility trials/shows or dog parks or who travel to areas of known outbreaks are at a higher risk level.  Your veterinarian will help you decide if your dog is in a higher risk lifestyle and should receive the vaccine.

Note: Pets sometimes experience mild side effects from vaccinations. Typically starting within hours of vaccination, symptoms are most often mild and usually consist of decreased activity and slightly decreased appetite. This is a normal response by your pet’s immune system during the process of developing protective immunity. Please call us if you have any concerns at 828-253-3393.

Intestinal Parasite Testing and Prevention:

There are several different types of intestinal parasites, often referred to as worms, that can affect your dog in a variety of ways ranging from simple irritation of the GI system to life-threatening conditions. Some intestinal parasites can even infect you and your family. It is important to keep you and your pet protected by giving your pet an effective parasite preventative every month, all year around. The heartworm prevention medicine that AHNA prescribes also prevents intestinal parasites, including whipworms.  The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that adult pets, even those dogs on parasite preventative medications which control the common intestinal parasites, have a test for intestinal parasites performed on a portion of the pet’s bowel movement at least annually. The fecal centrifugation test is used to look for common parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms, but also to detect less common parasites such as lungworms, threadworms, coccidia and Giardia for which there are no monthly preventative medications. Those with a positive fecal centrifugation test should be dewormed for the specific parasite. 

Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted directly or indirectly from animals to humans. Some worms can be transmitted in the environment. Pets contract worms by ingestion, by walking on contaminated soil or by migration to the uterus. Others diseases (vector-borne) can be transmitted by flea or ticks. Both can affect pets and people. These recommendations help safeguard your pet and reduce the risk to your family.

Deworming puppies: The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that puppies be dewormed at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age, even if a fecal test is negative, because worms may be present but not yet to the stage where the eggs are being passed. Puppies 6 to 8 weeks of age should be dewormed at least three times at 2 to 3 week intervals.  We deworm puppies at each vaccination appointment. It is also important to deworm all dogs being used for breeding.

Tapeworm Infection in Dogs: Tapeworms are contracted by swallowing a flea or by eating a rodent.  For excellent flea control and to prevent tapeworms, use a flea product prescribed by your veterinarian, such as Trifexis or Nexgard. There is not a reliable test for tapeworms, but if your pet has tapeworms, it is possible you will see quarter to half inch white segments in the stool or near the rectum.  When tapeworm segments dry, they look like a grain of rice.  Call us if you see these and we will dispense a tapeworm medication as long as your pet’s annual exam is up to date. Tapeworms are not passed directly between animals, so only the affected pet needs to be treated. Dragging the rear might be a sign of tapeworms, but overly full anal glands that need to be expressed are a more common cause of scooting.  We can perform anal gland expression for you or teach you to do it.

Ticks: Ticks carry deadly diseases for pets and people and must be prevented from infecting your pet with these diseases. Ticks are abundant in spring and summer, especially in Western NC.  Ticks can transmit extremely serious disease such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Babesia and Anaplasmosis.  We also see a condition called Tick Paralysis wherein a dog develops weakness progressing to paralysis due to the saliva of an embedded tick.  Ticks need to be prevented from harming your dog, so start your pet on one of the preventative medications, Nexgard or Frontline Plus, by the beginning of March each year and continue it through the fall or use a Seresto collar if your pet is already on Trifexis.

  • Nexgard: An oral medication administered once a month as a beef flavored chewable pill. Nexgard also kills adult fleas before they lay eggs.
  • Frontline Plus: A topical medicine applied to your pet’s neck/back that will kill adult ticks up to 30 days. We recommend no swimming or bathing for at least 2 days before or after application of Frontline Plus. Frontline Plus is effective for ticks, but may not meet your expectations as a flea treatment/preventive and definitely does not provide enough protection against fleas for dogs who are itchy.  
  • Seresto Collar: With its innovative delivery system, Seresto® offers a breakthrough in tick protection for dogs or cats for up to eight months. This collar is also effective against fleas.

Fleas:

It is important to protect your dog from fleas.  Fleas can be present all year long in this area, but are definitely worse in the spring, summer and fall. Fleas and the allergies that so many dogs have to them are the cause of much of the itching that dogs experience. Before any itchy dog can be further diagnosed, it is mandatory to kill all adult fleas!  Any dog that is at all itchy should have the highest level of flea prevention.  That is the very first thing to do to help a dog that is itchy.

It is important for you to realize that the heartworm preventative monthly tablet that your veterinarian prescribes for your pet may or may not kill adult fleas. We carry two heartworm preventatives, Sentinel and Trifexis. Sentinel kills flea eggs but does not kill adult fleas.  Trifexis kills adult fleas before they can lay eggs.  Both do an excellent job of preventing heartworms and intestinal worms, but Trifexis is much more effective against fleas. If you have an itchy dog that is on Sentinel, then you will need to give Nexgard (kills adult fleas and kills ticks) to kill the adult fleas. If your dog is ever itchy, be sure that your dog is on one of the following combinations of products. Either one will protect your pet well from fleas if given all year around.

Trifexis for heartworms, adult fleas and intestinal parasites all year long AND Frontline Plus for ticks during tick season (Spring through Fall)

OR

Sentinel for heartworms, flea eggs, and intestinal parasites all year long AND Nexgard for ticks and adult fleas all year long

OR

Sentinel for heartworms, flea eggs, and intestinal parasites all year long AND Seresto Collar for both adult fleas and for ticks (Note: Seresto Collars do not come with a flea free guarantee from the company.)

It is important to realize that for the excellent flea control your pet should receive treatment against fleas all year long.

Annual Screening Bloodwork and Organ Function Testing:

Dogs cannot tell us how they are feeling, so regular bloodwork is one of the best ways to identify health problems early while they can be treated. We recommend that you have blood tests run on your pet early in life to establish normal values. Repeating the blood tests at least annually allows your veterinarian to monitor trends in organ function and catch potential medical concerns before they become untreatable. You can discuss with your veterinarian which panel to run.  Your pet will need to have a blood sample drawn and you are welcome to be with your pet while this is done.

  • Mini Wellness Panel: This is the smaller of two panels offered and consists of a complete blood count and the following blood chemistry tests: Glucose, two kidney tests (BUN, creatinine), protein levels, two liver tests (alkaline phosphatase, ALT), and potassium, as well as a urinalysis and a heartworm test.
  • Full Wellness Panel: This is the more extensive panel and consists of a complete blood count and the following blood chemistry tests: Glucose, two kidney tests (BUN, creatinine), protein levels, five liver tests (bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, ALT, AST, GGTP), cholesterol, triglycerides, calcium, phosphorus, electrolytes, amylase, lipase, CPK, and screening thyroid testing, as well as a urinalysis and a heartworm test.
  • Heartworm Testing:

Animal Hospital of North Asheville, complying with the recommendations of the American Heartworm Society and the American Animal Hospital Association, requires a heartworm test each year for dogs on preventive heartworm medication. Due to the high incidence of heartworm disease in our area, year round prescription heartworm preventative medication is necessary.  The decision of which heartworm preventative to give your pet is based on your pet’s medical history and must be made in conjunction with your pet’s veterinarian.  

For more information on heartworm disease, please visit https://www.heartwormsociety.org/.

The following is taken directly from the American Heartworm Society website:

All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:

  • Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), but should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, tested again 6 months later and yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm-free.

  • Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention.  They, too, need to be tested 6 months and 12 months later and annually after that.

  • If there has been a lapse in prevention (one or more late or missed doses), dogs should be tested immediately, then tested again six months later and annually after that.

Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it can leave your dog unprotected. Even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill—or rub off a topical medication. Heartworm preventives are highly effective, but not 100 percent effective. If you don’t get your dog test, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.

Canine Heartworm Disease: Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs and cats in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog can mature into adults, mate and produce microfilariae that are picked up by mosquitoes where they further develop before they are spread to pets as the mosquito feeds. If untreated, the number of heartworms can increase in your dog, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

The decision as to which combination of parasite preventatives to give your pet must be made in conjunction with your pet’s veterinarian because the individual needs and medical history of your pet must be considered.  In general, one of the following two combinations is recommended:

Trifexis for heartworms, adult fleas and intestinal parasites all year long AND Frontline Plus for ticks

OR

Sentinel for heartworms, flea eggs, and intestinal parasites all year long AND Nexgard for ticks and adult fleas all year long

One of the above two options is preferable for most dogs because adult flea control is definitely achieved if the medications are given as directed.  However, your pet’s veterinarian may determine that your pet needs a different combination or you may need to choose a lower cost alternative.  For these pets, we generally recommend a combination of:

Sentinel for heartworms, flea eggs, and intestinal parasites all year long AND Seresto Collar for ticks and adult fleas all year long

Please discuss these options with your pet’s veterinarian at your pet’s annual exam.