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Heartworm Information

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about Zika virus, a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes and can make us ill. But did you know that mosquitoes carry diseases that can cause illness in our pets? Most pet owners are aware of diseases like rabies, feline leukemia, and canine kennel cough. These diseases are transmitted to our pets by contact with other cats, dogs or sometimes wildlife. Heartworm disease is an infection that can be transmitted to our dogs and cats by the bite of an infected mosquito. That means that our pets do not need to be around other animals to become infected with heartworm disease.

Luckily for pet owners, heartworm disease can be very easy to prevent. There is a variety of monthly medications that can be prescribed to your dog and cat, including flavored chewable tablets and topical medications.

Heartworm disease has been on the rise in Pennsylvania over the past few years. According to the American Heartworm Society, vet clinics in PA were reporting an average of 1-5 heartworm cases per year in 2010. Some clinics in northern PA were seeing even less than that. Then in 2013, at the next report, all surveyed clinics were reporting at least 1-5 cases per year, and many clinics reported 6-25 cases per year. This does not include the millions of pets who are never tested.

Heartworm disease affects dogs and cats in different ways. The heartworm larvae is injected into the bloodstream by the mosquito. In dogs, the larvae grow into adult worms in the heart and lung vessels, causing severe damage that may be permanent. There can be as many as 50 adult worms in the heart and lungs in an infected dog. Symptoms in dogs can range from a mild cough to full blown heart failure. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all! In cats, the worm burden tends to be much less but they are more sensitive to the larvae. The larvae can trigger a severe inflammatory reaction in the lungs similar to asthma. This inflammation can cause fatal respiratory disease.

Once infected, heartworm disease can be painful and expensive to treat. There is an injection for dogs that is given multiple times over the course of 1 month to kill the adult heartworms. There is no specific treatment for cats, only supportive care.

It is recommended to test for heartworm disease yearly, even if your dog is on year round prevention. This helps to ensure that the prevention is working. The test also checks for other diseases like Lyme disease. Reliable testing is not available for cats and they can be given heartworm preventive without testing. It is recommended to test your dog before starting the preventive. The preventives only kill the larvae that have been transmitted to your dog within the past 30 days. For example, if your dog was bitten by an infected mosquito on May 15th and you started your preventive on July 1st, your dog is NOT protected from heartworm disease. You should test again in 6-12 months to check for a mature infection. This is another advantage to giving heartworm prevention year round; the risk of missing an infection is much less. And with winters getting warmer, how do we know when the last mosquito left Pennsylvania? September? December? Or did they ever leave at all?

For more information about canine and feline heartworm disease, talk to your vet or visit the American Heartworm Society’s website at www.heartwormsociety.org.

Tech Talk with Sarah: Macaws

TECH TALK

By: Sarah Elizabeth

sarah

PET BIRDS

MACAW

Hello! My name is Sarah & I am a vet tech from AHDC. Each month I will be posting a new blog about exotic pets. Things like at home care, pros & cons of having the responsibility of caring for an exotic pet, & general information.

Today I am going to be talking about Macaws! These colorful feathered friends of ours come in many sizes & colors. The personality of a Macaw is very unique.

MACAW

Socialization and Behavior

When first starting the socialization process between you & your new pet macaw, it is best to first allow your pet to adapt to his/her new environment. Not only for them, but also for yourself. For a few days, interact from a distance. Let your new pet get adjusted to your voice, your smell, ect. Macaws are known to build a very strong bond with one specific person of their choosing & can become very protective of this person. They can even potentially become violent if felt threatened. Therefore, at a young age it is best to have multiple people handle your pet so he/she will not feel easily threatened.

Besides proper socialization, macaws need exercise and room to do this.  Macaws are active birds that love to climb, swing, chew, and need adequate mental stimulation (toys) so screaming or plucking doesn’t become a habit out of boredom.  Macaws should have a minimum of 2-3 hours of playtime outside of the cage each day.

If you are interested in learning more about socialization and other macaw facts, check out this website: http://animal-world.com/encyclo/birds/macaws/MacawProfile.htm

Housing/Care

Macaws need very large cages in order to have a comfortable habitat. Although they come in all different sizes, larger macaws have a very wide wingspan  and their housing should allow them to spread their wings and stretch to preen (a minimum of 30in x 40in, height varies but usually about 57+in). Wooden perches are amongst their favorite places to rest, and they enjoy jumping from perch to perch safe from any harm below.  This also helps to stretch & move their muscles to avoid muscular dystrophy, or weakened muscles, which is common in poor environments.

Part of providing a good environment means providing a warm home as macaws come from the warmer environments of Central and South America. A good room temperature is between 70-75 degrees year round.  A heating lamp is a great way to heat an area for your companion, but be sure it is out of reach so your bird cannot harm itself.  Macaws are playful birds, and it is best to have objects that the bird can use to trim down its beak or nails naturally. Many people are under the impression that mirrors are a great thing for a bird so they can look at their reflection, but this is false information! Macaws & other birds tend to become very aggressive toward their own reflection, thinking that it is another bird in their space. Bowls should not be placed under perches, but rather near and beside perches so there is less chance of them soiling in their food & water.

It is best to have your macaw groomed frequently. Having the nails trimmed will keep both of you safe.  Some birds may also need their beaks smoothed or reshaped if they have overgrowth or peeling.  This can be done during an annual wellness for your macaw at AHDC or more frequently as needed.  While the vet and tech are performing such tasks, they are also monitoring your pet to make sure their stress level is okay & they are safe. During your bird’s annual examination, the veterinarian will do an overall exam of your pet & check for any signs of illness such as poor feather quality, damaged blood feathers, irregular breathing, and any other changes.  Blood feathers are new feathers that are developing on the bird and can be damaged due to wing cramping or a poor environment.  A way to keep their feather quality pristine & to be sure your pet macaw has great hygiene is to bathe your pet macaw regularly. It is common for macaws & many other avian breeds to bathe in the shower.  No shampoo necessary! In fact, although we love the flowery smells of most soaps, perfumes, and hand lotions, the smells are very overwhelming and irritating to birds.

I hope you enjoy this first newsletter and that we can help you and your companion enjoy a long and happy life together.

Nutrition

The average weight of a macaw is about 1.75 to 4 lbs. In length, a macaw can range up to about 30 to 35 in. long. Their wingspan can range between 40 to 45 in. long. Although macaws come in all different sizes & colors, I would like to focus on my personal favorite, the Blue and Gold Macaw.  Blue and golds are one of the most popular large parrot kept as companions due to their beautiful coloring and their overabundance of personality.  Most are a blue/turquoise color & have a yellow chest & belly. Their turquoise wings vividly flow into a beautiful green along the side of their bodies to the tip of their tail feathers which will sometimes fade into a dark green. The top of their head is caped with a vivid color of green, while their face is all white & will obviously blush red when excited. Their beaks are very large, curl, & are black in color. The average lifespan is about 50 to 60 years in captivity! A lifelong companion to have by your side.

General Information

The average weight of a macaw is about 1.75 to 4 lbs. In length, a macaw can range up to about 30 to 35 in. long. Their wingspan can range between 40 to 45 in. long. Although macaws come in all different sizes & colors, I would like to focus on my personal favorite, the Blue and Gold Macaw.  Blue and golds are one of the most popular large parrot kept as companions due to their beautiful coloring and their overabundance of personality.  Most are a blue/turquoise color & have a yellow chest & belly. Their turquoise wings vividly flow into a beautiful green along the side of their bodies to the tip of their tail feathers which will sometimes fade into a dark green. The top of their head is caped with a vivid color of green, while their face is all white & will obviously blush red when excited. Their beaks are very large, curl, & are black in color. The average lifespan is about 50 to 60 years in captivity! A lifelong companion to have by your side.