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Monday, June 28, 2021

Dog Head Gear That’s Not A Muzzle

 Dog Head Gear That’s Not A Muzzle

Jumping and pulling on leash are the two most requested training solutions requested by the average dog owner. As humane training evolves, a set of kind, as well as helpful training gear systems, has developed. The no-jump leg harness and the no-pull chest harness are recent inventions.

Often mistaken for a muzzle and thereby creating unwarranted fear in a passerby, the headcollar has been used for thousands of years on llamas, camels, and horses. It was adapted for dogs 20 years ago by Dr. Roger Mugford and is proven to stop pulling ahead.

Today a dog sporting a head collar or halter is a common sight. Dr. Mugford developed the Halti brand head collar as an alternative to the physically damaging choke chain used to control large, aggressive, or difficult pets. The head collar works for goofy dogs, high prey drive, or overstimulated dogs and is welcome safety equipment for children, seniors, or any small handler with a large dog.

A consistent problem with traditional leash training is that the dog instinctively reacts to tension by pulling even harder against that tension. The head collar uses distraction and direction instead of force to shape the desired behavior. Used properly, the head collar allows the handler to steer a dog much the same way as using reins and a halter on a horse.

While the head collar is effective used alone, the initial training can include a regular leash attached to the neck collar or a body harness, and a second lighter leash attached to the head collar ring positioned under the dog’s chin. When the dog pulls ahead the handler directs the dog back with a smooth, gentle steer of the head collar leash. If used in tandem, the regular leash remains slack.

The basic theory is that where the head is turned the body naturally follows. When the dog’s head is turned back, he or she loses sight of the distraction ahead. The dog learns to choose which action-reaction feels best and which gets to a desired destination quickest without stops and starts.

Technique and fit are important for success. As with any new experience, the dog needs to be introduced to a head collar in a positive way. First sessions might simply be a couple of minutes in the living room. The head halter is presented so that the dog puts a nose and then eventually the entire muzzle through the loop to get a treat. The collar is not attached yet. When first clipped on, the dog wears the harness without a leash and enjoys interactive play with a toy or a game of fetch.

If the dog paws at the device or flops on the floor, the process is too fast. Back off and again present loop and treat then move forward to fastening the collar behind the head. It must not be too tight or too high, which risks eye injury as well as being uncomfortable. Fit correctly, a conforming collar does not constrict panting or yawning like a muzzle does. Just as the dog anticipates good things to come when a handler reaches for the leash, he or she comes to expect good things when the head collar is presented.

Once the dog is trained, which can be quite quickly, the head collar is removed and can be carried in a pocket as a lifelong helping tool for situations likely to cause arousal. An excursion involving crowds, lots of movement, and excitement might warrant putting on the head collar ahead of time. If it has become a positive reinforcer and fits well, the dog won’t mind.

There are several brands of head collars with different features. The most important points are that the halter be the right size, positioned correctly conforming to the head and face, presented with positive association, and used with a soft touch. Walking the dog should and can be a mutually satisfying activity for everyone of every age or stature, including the dog.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Horses - The Tapeworm Threat

Tapeworms were once considered a fairly benign parasite, unassociated with serious problems in equines. But recent studies show tapeworms are anything but harmless. Consider the statistics:

  • 81 percent of ileal impactions (a blockage at the end of the small intestine, commonly referred to as an impaction colic) are associated with tapeworms.
  • 22 percent of spasmodic (gas) colics are tapeworm-related.
  • Ileocecal intussusception (a serious, surgical form of colic where one part of the intestine telescopes into another) is almost always caused by tapeworm infection.
  • On average, more than 54 percent of horses in the United States have been exposed to tapeworms, including 96 percent of horses in the upper Midwest, more than 80 percent of horses in some Southern regions, and 56 percent of horses in the northern Plains and Mountain regions. Even in the lowest-risk areas of the West Coast, at least one out of every 10 horses has tapeworm exposure.

    Why didn’t we know about this before?

    Tapeworms Uncovered
    “Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that infect horses, as well as other species, throughout the world,” explains Brady J. Bergin, DVM, assistant professor, Oregon State University. “They belong to the class of parasites known as cestodes. The three types of tapeworms that can infect horses are Anoplocephala perfoliata, Anoplocephala magna and Paranoplocephala mamillana, with A. perfoliata being by far the most common.”

    Unlike other worms, horse tapeworms need an intermediate host to complete their life cycles. That host, the forage mite, becomes infective by ingesting tapeworm eggs; the horse swallows the infective mites while grazing, and the tapeworms mature in the horse’s intestine within six to 10 weeks. Although much is unknown aboutthe mite’s biology, they’re widespread, living in pastures, lawns and vegetation, says Craig R. Reinemeyer, DVM, Ph.D., immediate past president of the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists, and president of East Tennessee Clinical Research Inc., the research group that identified tapeworm prevalence in the United States. The mite also seems to favor temperate climates. “They live in the humus, the organic layer of the soil,” says Robert H. Dressler, DVM, manager of Equine Veterinary Operations at Pfizer Animal Health. “In the arid desert areas of the Southwest, there isn’t a whole lot of humus, and that’s where there is a much lower incidence of tapeworms.”

    Bottom line: Any horse that grazes on pasture is at risk for ingesting infected mites.
    Although studies now demonstrate that tapeworms are everywhere in the United States (albeit in varying numbers), experts had been unaware of their prevalence because of the inability to accurately diagnose tapeworm infection in the horse. “Traditionally, we looked for tapeworm eggs in fecal exams, but that’s been very ineffective,” Dr. Reinemeyer says. “With most other parasites in horses the females stay in the gut and pass out eggs, and the eggs leave the horse in the manure. With tapeworms, the eggs develop in a lower segment of the worm’s body, which separates and passes out in the fecal matter into the environment, but it’s not an ongoing process. The tapeworm body is like a freight train with a bunch of boxcars, one chained to the other. The end of the tapeworm matures faster than the rest of it, so every once in a while the caboose (which is like a bag of eggs) drops off. That bag may not rupture until it gets outside the horse or gets farther down the track, we don’t know.” Consequently, detecting tapeworm eggs in the manure is a hit-or-mostly-miss procedure. And because veterinarians weren’t seeing tapeworm eggs in fecal exams, they assumed there was no tapeworm problem.

    Further, although tapeworms were detected during surgery or postmortem, they weren’t associated with any disease process.

    That all changed in the mid-1990s when a British researcher developed a test that could detect an immune response to a specific protein exuded by tapeworms into the horse’s blood. Although this test only determines exposure to tapeworms as opposed to an active infection (much like horses that have been exposed to equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, or EPM, don’t necessarily have the active disease), it was a step in the right direction and enabled researchers to discover just how widespread tapeworms are.

    Since then, researchers learned that tapeworms cause degrees of intestinal damage and disease. Dr. Bergin says, “This damage occurs when large numbers of tapeworms firmly attach to certain areas of the digestive tract, such as the small intestine or, more specifically, the ileocecal junction (the common opening of the ileum, colon and cecum). Their attachment can lead to inflammation, irritation and ulceration at this site, impairing normal function. This intestinal malfunction can also adversely affect the digestive tract, leading to three common types of colic associated with tapeworm infestation: ileocecal intussusception, ileocecal impaction and spasmodic colic.”

    Those are the recognized problems caused by tapeworms. Undetermined are the problems a “typical” or low-grade tapeworm infection causes. “Does it cause low-grade diarrhea, low-grade colic, weight loss?” Dr. Reinemeyer ponders. “We don’t know. But anecdotal evidence suggests tapeworms may cause low-grade colic after intense exercise.”

    Dealing With It
    Even though prevention of tapeworms isn’t truly possible, you can successfully treat these parasites in a horse and prevent the onset of colic and other complications that may be related to tapeworm infection, notes Tom Kennedy, Ph.D., vice president of research and development, Farnam Companies Inc.

    In the past, equine tapeworms were controlled with double or triple doses of pyrantel pamoate. “That did a fairly good job but was not 100 percent effective,” says Kevin Hankins, DVM, field veterinary consultant for Fort Dodge Animal Health. “It was costly plus it was sometimes a nightmare to get two or three tubes of dewormer into a horse.”

    But the recent development of praziquantel in paste and gel formulations for horses offers an affordable, easier, and, to date, more effective alternative. “Praziquantel has been around for a long time, and has been used extensively in dogs and cats,” Dr. Hankins states. “It kills the tapeworms in the horse by destroying the worm’s protective, tough outer layer, thus making the parasite vulnerable to the horse’s immune system, which takes care of it from there.”

    Explains Frank Hurtig, DVM, manager, Veterinary Professional Services at Merial Inc., “The addition of praziquantel to horse parasite control medicines containing macrocyclic lactone drugs (i.e. moxidectin and ivermectin) has been an advance in treatment and control of tapeworms in horses. Praziquantel has a wide margin of safety in horses.” Thus with one dose, praziquantel/macrocyclic lactone formulations offer treatment of tapeworms as well as broad-spectrum activity against strongyles, ascarids, pinworms, bots and other common horse parasites.

    Currently, there are four praziquantel/macrocyclic lactone products available: ComboCare (Farnam), Equimax (Pfizer), Quest Plus (Fort Dodge) and Zimectrin Gold (Merial).

    The only precaution is treating a horse infected with a lot of parasites or one that is clinically ill, Dr. Hankins says. “If they have a very high parasite load, you could end up causing an impaction from all of the parasites killed off in the gut. Also, when parasites die off, they can produce a toxin, and that can make your horse sick. If your horse is already ill or heavily parasitized, his immune system is likely suppressed and would react differently to a normal deworming schedule; that is why dewormers are labeled as only for use in healthy animals.” Some veterinarians treat at-risk horses by either administering a reduced dose and/or administering mineral oil 24 hours prior to deworming to help with the passage of the dead parasites.

    Currently, praziquantel is labeled only for treatment, not prevention. But Dr. Hurtig notes, “Since tapeworms are extremely difficult to definitively diagnose in the live horse, it is best to simply treat for tapeworms on a frequent basis.” This will benefit horses, since using praziquantel products routinely at labeled dosage recommendations removes tapeworms before they become a problem instead of after a problem (i.e. colic) is apparent.

    Work with your veterinarian to develop a program that’s specific for your horse and climate. Dr. Bergin says that there is not a single catch-all recipe for controlling parasites that works for every horse in every area—it’s based on a number of factors that need to be evaluated, and from there your veterinarian can create a plan.

    Although praziquantel is safe, don’t overuse it as parasites likely will build resistance to it. Dr. Reinemeyer explains, “Frequent use of dewormers puts tremendous pressure on the parasites to adapt to survive this continuous onslaught, so they select for resistance. We’re seeing that now with ascarids and ivermectin.”

    Include management techniques in your deworming program. “Good pasture hygiene is a critical management technique for the control of tapeworms as well as other parasites,” Dr. Bergin says. To reduce the spread of parasites, remove manure from stalls daily, dispose of fecal material away from pastures and feed/water supplies, and chain drag or harrow pastures to break up manure piles. Don’t feed your horses directly on the ground; this increases the risk of ingesting forage mites since it is where they typically reside. Avoid overcrowding or overgrazing pastures (rotate if possible). Finally, quarantine all new additions to the herd and perform fecal exams to determine parasite status in general and to avoid the introduction of parasites.

    Down the LineWhile differentiating between tapeworm exposure and an active infection is still a guessing game, researchers hope to soon change that. Stephen Kania, Ph.D., associate professor, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, has developed a test, with the support of the American Quarter Horse Association, that detects proteins released by the tapeworm parasite into fecal material. “This test differs from antibody detection in that a positive result is likely to indicate an active parasite infection,” Dr. Kania says. “We are currently at the stage of validating the test with samples from a large number of horses.” If all goes well, it’s possible this diagnostic test will be available in two or three years and could be a great aid in advancing knowledge on tapeworm infection.

    Fortunately, you have the tools now to avoid tapeworm problems in your horse. Discuss the risks of infection in your area with your veterinarian and work out a responsible deworming program appropriate for your horse.
  • Friday, June 11, 2021

    Hot Tips To Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer

    Pets do not sweat in the same way humans do and can easily become overheated. To avoid this problem and enjoy the summer season with your pet, here’re the tips to keep in mind.

    1. Provide plenty of water and shade

    Dehydration in dogs and cats is a real possibility during the summer. Our dogs get much thirstier than we do when they get hot. Signs of dehydration include dry gums and excessive drooling. Make sure your pet always has access to fresh, clean water inside the house and bring a bottle for your furry companion when going outside, just like you do for yourself. You might also switch to a wet dog food during the hotter months to increase fluid intake.

    Keep your pet in the shade as often as possible. While dogs and cats like to sunbathe, direct sunlight can overheat them (especially dogs) and lead to heatstroke.

    2.Know the signs

    A dog's normal temperature is between 100° and 103°F, while a normal temperature in cats ranges from 100.4º to 102.5ºF. Anything higher than that means your pet’s in danger. Dogs and cats don’t sweat like we do. They drink water and pant to bring down their body temperature.

    Watch for these possible symptoms of overheating:

    • Heavy panting
    • Dry or bright red gums
    • Thick drool
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Wobbly legs

    If your pet shows signs of heat exhaustion, move them to a cool place, give them a drink of water, put a damp towel over their body, and get them to the vet asap. Don’t place your pet in cold water, that can put them into shock.

    3.Never leave your pet in the car

    Most pets love riding in cars. But they wouldn’t enjoy being stuck in it somewhere in the parking lot when it heats up to over 100 degrees. You may think leaving your pet in a car for a few minutes is no big deal. However, it can take less than 10 minutes to develop heat stroke in dogs and cats inside the hot vehicle.

    Leaving your pets in cars not only dangerous to your pet, but it is also illegal in 16 states that have specific “hot car” laws. So, either take your pet with you or leave it at home. If you see a pet left alone in a car under dangerous condition, take action immediately - try searching for the owner asap or even call the police.

    4. Apply sunscreen

    Believe it or not, pets get sunburns too, especially those with short or light hair coat. And just like with people, it hurts and can even lead to skin cancer. If you are planning to spend a day out in the sun with your furry companion, apply sunscreens every 3-4 hours to the least hair-covered spots: bellies, ears, and nose. Use only sunscreens made specifically for pets. Your vet could advise on the product suitable for your pet fur kid.

    5. Don’t shave your pet

    You might think shaving your dog a cat for the summer is the best solution to overheating. But a pet's coat is naturally designed to keep it cool during the summer and warm in the winter. Feel free to trim the fur on your pet in the summer, but never shave. Be sure to leave at least a full inch of hair to protect your pet’s skin from sunburns. And don’t forget about your pet’s regular grooming schedule, no matter what season it is.

    6. Mind your walking hours

    If you have a dog, walk and exercise your pup only in the early morning and late evening. Never do it in the middle of the day. When outside, take breaks in the shade and have water available.

    7. Keep your dog's paws cool

    Pets heat and cool from the bottom up. If you’re out in the sun together, try to keep your pet off of hot surfaces like cement and asphalt. Not only can it burn paws, but it can also increase body temperature and lead to overheating. It’s also not a good idea to drive around with your dog in the back of a truck – the hot metal can burn paws quickly.