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H is for Heartworms

A-to-Z Blogging Challenge 2015--HToday’s topic is a serious one that we are particularly passionate about. Our Ginny was heartworm-positive when we got her, as are many shelter dogs. At Unleashed, approximately 1 in 5 dogs who arrive at the shelter are heartworm-positive. Many times, the owners abandon their dogs because they cannot afford the expensive treatment to rid their dog of the parasite.

Heartworms are spread to dogs through mosquito bites. From the time a mosquito bites an infected animal, it takes about 2 weeks for it to be able to spread heartworms to a new animal. Therefore, if you have a heartworm-positive dog, you don’t need to worry about it infecting your other dogs. All dogs need to be on a regular heartworm preventive medicine year-round, regardless of whether there are mosquitoes present, to keep their resistance up and because the preventive medications for heartworms also prevent other types of parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms.

This is definitely one situation where the old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure rings true. Monthly heartworm medications can cost as little as $10 per dose, and are safe and effective in preventing infestation. Treatment of heartworms is far more expensive, anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand depending upon the type of treatment you choose. The treatment which works the most quickly is a series of injections of a drug known as Immiticide. The dog needs to be kept on activity restriction during treatment and often for several months afterward, because the dying worms can cause blockages in the dog’s pulmonary vessels, and exercise can aggravate the condition.

Some veterinarians now prefer a “slow kill” method because of risks involved in the Immiticide injections, or simply because they cannot get the Immiticide. There is a good article here about this issue, and the different options a vet might use. We are doing the slow kill method with Ginny, but it is a long process. It takes at least 9 months to complete, and requires vigilance about preventives even after the initial process. We had to keep her immobile during the initial phase, when she was on steroids, and even now, we have to limit her activity because she tires so easily.

It’s so important to keep on top of preventives for your dog. Make sure to set an annual check-up for your dog to be re-checked for heartworms, because most states won’t allow the prescriptions to be renewed without the vet having tested your dog first. If you are concerned about the cost of preventives, many websites such as Petango and 1-800-PetMeds offer them at more affordable prices, you just have to get your vet to confirm the prescription. Petango also gives a portion of all sales to rescues, so you can help your local shelter just by shopping! A small cost and a little vigilance will keep your dog heartworm-free.

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D is for Diet

DOne of the hottest topics of debate among dog owners is what type of food is best. The truth is, there is no one brand that is best for all dogs. And with so many different dog foods out there, and so much conflicting information, the pet store can be an overwhelming place, especially for new pet owners.

So how do you decide what’s best for your dog? First, ask your vet. This is particularly important if your dog has any health conditions that require a special diet. However, be aware that many veterinary clinics, even otherwise good ones, have incentive to promote some brands of dog food over others. Our first vet would push Science Diet to all their patients, giving free sample bags at your first appointment with any new pet. So I’d be wary of a vet that only recommends one brand. We’ve since switched clinics, and have received much better advice on food.

Basically, rather than worrying about the specific brand, look for foods that are high-protein, and that are low-grain or grain-free. Many dog foods are filled with corn, wheat, or rice. Wheat and corn are especially known to cause skin allergies in many dogs. Rice is more tolerable, but with the recent studies showing high naturally-occurring arsenic in rice, we’ve decided it’s better for us to avoid grains altogether. Many grain-free foods use sweet potato instead, which is a great alternative, with high nutrient content. And try to avoid anything that is brightly colored, as these generally contain dyes which are at best unnecessary, and at worst could cause an adverse reaction.

You want something with a meat protein as the first ingredient. If your dogs are sensitive to chicken or beef, salmon can be a good alternative. Ginny has had skin sensitivities, but they cleared up when we switched to a salmon and sweet potato food. Our dogs love chicken, but we don’t love the stink that ensues after they’ve eaten chicken-based food or treats. Some brands have food that contains wild game such as venison or rabbit. The important thing is to find a food your dog loves to eat that also has a good nutritional balance. With so many choices out there, you should be able to find a quality food that still fits your budget.

Hi, Mom. I like treats. You got any treats?

Hi, Mom. I like treats. You got any treats?

Whatever you choose, it’s important to keep your dog on a consistent feeding schedule and to carefully portion their food. Limit the amount of treats you give them–a difficult task if you have particularly persistent little beggars like ours! And while it may be tempting to slip table scraps to your well-behaved dog, that can lead to unwanted pounds and may lead to some unwanted behaviors over time. If you are vigilant, you can keep your dog at a healthy weight while still keeping meal time enjoyable.

Do your dogs have a favorite treat? Do you have little beggars at home like we do? Share your stories in the comments!

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A to Z Challenge: Theme Reveal

As April approaches, the A to Z Challenge is just around the corner. That means it’s time to reveal our theme for the month.

Since this is our first time doing the challenge, and really the start to our blog, we thought we’d pick a theme that is dear to us: adoption!

Throughout the month, we’ll talk on subjects related to animal rescue and adoption. We’ll also share the stories of our own little pack. We’re really looking forward to telling our tales and visiting other blogs during the challenge!

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We’re taking on the A to Z Blogging Challenge!

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Since our lives aren’t already crazy enough (yeah, right), we decided to take things up a notch by participating in this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge. The idea is to write a blog post every day in April except Sundays, with each post inspired by a different letter of the alphabet. We figured this would be a great way to jump-start the blog, and could help our Twitter and Facebook friends get to know us a bit more. Amy’s been cooking up some good ideas for posts, and Josh is getting ready for some tie-in posts on the Facebook page. If you have suggestions for posts you’d like to see about our dogs or animal rescue in general, let us know in the comments! And if you’re participating, please share your blog’s URL and we’ll check out your posts. Have a great weekend, everybody!

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