Taking action for your dog’s health in time of ticks
By Beth Krueger
Ava is ticked off and that’s a good thing.
It’s especially welcome news when you’re a border collie who lives in a woodsy area by a lake. We make a habit of checking for ticks in the fur (not a small task since they are about the size of a sesame seed); she’s had her preventive medication and we’ve taken procedures recommended by her veterinarian. Her test came up negative.
Awareness is a critical element when dealing with health care, so we consulted the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) and other resources and asked Michael Casler, DVM, of Guilderland Animal Hospital about the risks, symptoms, diseases in the Capital Region that can develop from interaction with ticks, and preventive actions.
What are these little critters? Of the many kinds of ticks, the deer tick (or Ixodes) can carry and be infected with the bacteria causing Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. In New York State, 1 out of 10 dogs are at risk; the brown dog tick (or Rhipicephalus sanguineus) can transmit anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. New York dogs are at risk at rates of 1 of 18 and 1 of 233, respectively, for these two diseases. Dogs may get multiple tick-borne infections. Check out the geographic mapping tools at www.dogsandticks.com.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, this disease, which can affect humans, too, is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. Only ticks infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria become the vectors or transmitters to pass it along to the dog or person, as it is the bacteria that cause the disease. Young tick may feed on mice or other hosts that are infected with the bacteria; the ticks then go on to infect others, including dogs and people.
Vigilance is critical as symptoms, including lameness, swollen and painful joints, and lack of energy, may not be readily apparent, may present and go away, or may mask as another problem. And, no, a bull’s eye won’t show up in dogs, as it might in humans. Dr. Casler points out that prevention is a year-round task since ticks are active even in the winter on days when temperatures are at least 40 degrees, an increasing common weather occurrence.
Since ticks are often found in woods, grasses, bushes and shady areas, keep lawns mowed, trim back and limit shrubbery, and rake up leaves. Ticks are on vegetation and attach themselves as dogs or people pass by—they wait and reach for you and your dog in a process called questing. If the tick is infected, this transmission isn’t instantaneous but may take a number of hours of feeding off their new hosts, so get rid of ticks quickly. Be aware that birdfeeders can attract animals that transmit diseases to ticks. Carriers of the disease include white-footed deer mice, chipmunks or other small mammals found in almost every suburban back yard. Taking your dog on a walk, picnic, camping or waterside visit also should be accompanied by a tick watch. It is estimated that only two percent of dogs are never outside.
Regularly check your pet when they are out and about. The AVMA reports, “Lyme disease is not communicable from one animal to another except through tick bites.” Your veterinarian may recommend testing of other dogs in the household. The AVMA describes tick-borne disease as a “one health” problem, noting that “because people and their pets often can be found together outdoors as well as indoors, a Lyme disease diagnosis in any family member—whether human or nonhuman—should serve as a flag that all family members might consult their physicians and veterinarians, who can advise about further evaluation or testing.” AVMA offers a Lyme Disease: A Pet Owner’s Guide (www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/lyme-disease.aspx)
What should you do if you see a tick on your dog? “Ticks should be removed ASAP with tweezers or special tick removers,” says Dr. Casler. “Avoid crushing the body and place the tweezers or tick remover at the head of tick as close to the skin as possible.” Keep the area clean. Don’t just throw away the tick; place it in a container with rubbing alcohol to ensure it will not live to make more trouble.
Make a preventive plan with vet
In addition to taking steps to avoid attracting ticks in your environment, including your backyard, make a preventive plan with your veterinarian. Seek your vets’ advice to get a regimen going appropriate for your dog’s lifestyle, location and conditions. That includes regular use of the preventive product determined by your veterinarian to be right for your pet. “Topical spot-on products, such as Frontline and Advantix, are popular and Frontline spray is very effective for tick control but not as convenient to apply,” notes Dr. Casler who adds that he often uses the spray as a supplemental or adjunct treatment in high-risk areas. There’s also an oral treatment, Nexgard, which can be effective. He advises that all pets need to be treated in multiple pet households, not only for tick prevention but also for fleas.
None of the tick controls are 100 percent effective, explains Dr. Casler. In some cases, Lyme vaccines may be recommended but, he emphasizes, vaccines should be given under the recommendation and discretion of the dog’s veterinarian.
Your veterinarian may perform a blood test that detects antibodies against Lyme, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and heartworm. Results of this “SNAP test” are available in about 10 minutes. If positive findings, treatment, Dr. Casler explains, will be planned by the veterinarian based on factors such as clinical signs and history. This might involve a 30-day course of the antibiotic doxycycline, the standard course of treatment. “Only 15-20 percent dogs with positive test results show any overt clinical signs,” he says, noting that dogs with co-infection show more severe clinical signs. He finds approximately 22-25 percent of dogs in his practice to be positive for Lyme, 12 percent for anaplasmosis, and 1% or less for ehrlichiosis and heartworm.
Think ahead: Preventing eye injuries
By Robert Brass, MD
As a physician and a parent of three very active boys, I know that keeping them out of harm’s way can be a full-time concern. Like most situations, prevention is most important. Injuries happen quickly and are typically unexpected. While we cannot protect our kids from every scrape and sprain, knowing about different types of eye injuries and where they can occur may help us alleviate possible dangers that could result in a preventable eye injury. If I can give you one recommendation to protect your child’s eyes from injury, it would be wear safety glasses.
Sports are often source of injury
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), sporting injuries account for 40 percent of eye injuries in children. Children should wear eye protectors made with polycarbonate lenses for sports such as baseball, basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse, golf and those involving racquets and paintball. In addition to obvious injuries like being hit with a bat, racquet, golf club or lacrosse stick, finger pokes to the eye are more common than you might think. Even toys that swing can cause problems. A college-age patient suffered a laceration of his eye on Halloween while he was having a swordfight with a plastic sword! Another young patient lost an eye when he was hit by the backswing of a golf club.
Anything a kid can shoot, throw or in any way propel through the air can cause an object to hit and injure the eye. These include toys that propel what is referred to as darts “up to 90 feet,” a significant amount of force. Kids typically shoot these darts at their friends and family members at distances a lot less than 90 feet! A BB or pellet gun is another example where a projectile may hit the eye. And it’s not just the potential of being hit when the projectile is fired. Often times, the projectiles can ricochet and unexpectedly hit the eye. Be pro-active. If there is a chance that anything around can hit you or your child in the face, have those involved wear eye protection. Safety glasses are made to protect the eye from the things that may in fact hit you in the eye.
Injuries at home
The AAO reports that nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home. Projects such as home repairs and yard work, and pets account for the majority of the causes of injuries. Chemicals used for cleaning can splash into children’s eyes. Be aware of and take preventive action when working on anything that can cause a small piece of something to fly off at a high speed and hit the eye, such as hammering, grinding, and sawing. Dog bites to the eye are too common. Fifteen percent of dog bites in children under the age of 4 involve the eye or eyelids! The child is usual familiar with the dog in these cases, and second attacks by the same dog are common. Consider removing a dog that bites a child from your home before your child is bitten a second time.
When elastic bands are stretched, they have the potential to hit and damage the eye. Combine that with a metallic object, and now we are talking about the potential for a devastating injury. Remind kids not to shoot rubber bands at people or create slingshots. Bungee cords are often a major factor in eye injuries. Mom or Dad is trying to fasten something to the car, and one end of the bungee cord slips, hitting the eye of a child who was standing close by. Take care to protect your eyes if you are working with anything that can snap back, and be certain that no one else is in proximity.
Care around campfires, fireworks
Be careful around the campfire. The embers from the fire can burn the eye. S’more sticks, aside from potentially being used as playthings, have hot ends that kids are often not aware of. Now that some fireworks are legal in New York State communities, and use of illegal ones continues to occur, watch out for obvious things like flying bottle rockets, roman candles, or anything that can fly into the eye. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks caused 10,500 eye injuries requiring visits to an emergency room in 2014. That number is double what it was in 2012.
While it is impossible to avoid all types of eye injuries, I always say, that you never appreciate prevention. By having your child wear safety glasses during sports or when helping out around the house, you are taking a pro-active step in protecting your child’s eyes. Keep kids away from fireworks. Be mindful of your surroundings when working with bungee cords. Protect your kids when you are doing home projects by keeping them away from chemicals. In addition, lead by example. Wear safety glasses, especially when using power tools and have your child wear them as well. You’ll be a role model and protect your eyes in the process.
Dr. Brass, Brass Eye Center, 713 Troy-Schenectady Road Suite 135, Latham. 782.7827; www.brasseyecenter.com.
Refresh, restore and repair your health Six tips and tricks for improving your health from head to toe
When it comes to your overall health, taking simple steps to keep yourself in good shape is key. Regardless of age or physical ability, practicing healthy habits can help improve both your physical and mental states, and lead to a happier, healthier lifestyle.
Whether it’s working a quick, refreshing yoga session into your daily routine, restoring energy with a nutritious snack or repairing your oral health, there are countless things you can do to improve your overall health and wellness. Take a step in the right direction and put your health first with some of these simple tips:
Keep your mind sharp
Research shows that you can keep cognitive function strong with mental stimulation. Completing crossword puzzles, reading or challenging yourself with brain games like Sudoku or Mah Jongg can help boost memory and brain power.
Lower your stress level
Take stress levels seriously. Try managing it by focusing on hobbies or activities you find calming, like reading or listening to music. You can also try practicing relaxation techniques, including meditation and breathing exercises.
Help repair your oral health
Practicing proper oral hygiene and using the right tools are simple ways to improve your oral health. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice daily for two minutes and flossing daily. Use a daily regimen, such as Colgate Total Daily Repair Mouthwash and Toothpaste, which helps kill bad breath germs while also helping to repair daily damage to teeth, and helps repair early teeth and gum damage by re-mineralizing weakened enamel and helping prevent gingivitis, while freshening breath and whitening teeth.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Research supports eating a well-balanced diet of vitamin and mineral-rich foods can be beneficial to your health. Opting to cook at home rather than going out to eat is an easy way to maintain those healthy eating habits. You can also try different cooking methods, such as steaming, modifying recipes to reduce sugar, salt and fat, to help manage and sustain your diet changes. You can also supplement a multivitamin if necessary.
Make time for a workout
Finding the motivation to hit the gym is the hardest part of working out, said blogger and Colgate Total influencer Kelly Tomlinson of Live Love Texas. Outside of the obvious health benefits of staying in shape, Tomlinson said she feels energized, strong and beautiful after a workout. If you make working out and taking care of yourself a priority, you can feel your best and also help set a good example for your children.
Practice good sleeping habits
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Staying on a regular sleep schedule, keeping your sleep environment cool, dark and quiet, and avoiding napping for too long or too late in the day can help you make sure you’re getting the proper amount. With these simple tips and tricks, you can finally put you first, contributing to better overall health. For more information, visit colgatetotal.com/total-benefits/whole-mouth-health/remineralize-teeth.