May is National Service Dog Eye Examination Month

 

By: Cate Burnette

Service Animals Need Healthcare Too…

What One Alliance of Veterinarians is Doing To Help

Because good eyesight to so important to the work of the approximate 20,000 service animals in the US, the ninth annual American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) National Service Animal Eye Exam event provides a free screening-wellness eye exam to all working animals. Those animals include guide dogs, hearing assistance dogs, drug detection dogs, police/military animals, search and rescue animals, therapy animals, and those assisting people with disabilities other than blindness. This program incorporates both dogs and horses in their exams.

To be eligible, all service or therapy animals must be formally trained and certified, currently working animals with proof of active registration. Animals currently enrolled in a formal service-training program are also eligible, based on clinic availability. The client must provide all qualification paperwork to the clinic at the time of the exam along with an online registration number. This complimentary eye exam through your veterinarian is of a screening nature and is not appropriate for animals with known eye issues.

So how do these wonderful working animals assist their human partners and what effect to they have on the daily lives of persons with disabilities?

 

Types of Service Dogs and Their Duties

According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, the approximate 20,000 service animals in this country – which includes 10,000 guide dogs – empower their disabled owners to function with greater self-sufficiency, summon help in a crisis, and to become aware of events in the environment that might prove stressful or harmful.

The types of tasks these animals are asked to perform revolve around the physical or psychological limitations of the pet parent and, by necessity, require the animal to be able to see clearly and without hesitation.

 

Guide Dog TasksA guide dog’s 4- to 6-month education involves mastering a set of tasks which, taken together, allow a blind or visually-impaired person to negotiate the unseen environment with greater ease, independence and safety. Some of those duties involve:

  • Navigating their person around stationary objects, hazards, low-hanging objects and moving objects while watching for oncoming or intersecting traffic in the team’s path.
  • Signaling changes in elevation, such as stepping off a curb, going up and down stairs, warning of a ditch, cliff or other outdoor drop-offs, halting when confronted by a barrier or refusing to go forward if there is a drop-off.  
  • Locating objects on command. Some of those objects might be finding an exit and indicating the door knob from a room, finding an empty seat, locating the person’s customary seat in a particular classroom, following a designated person (waiter, fireman/police officer), finding a specified designation after appropriate training.
  • Other tasks may include retrieving dropped objects or finding specific objects, such as the morning newspaper.

 

Hearing Dog Tasks Hearing dogs are schooled for 3 to 6 months to alert to the specific sounds needed by their partners, primarily in the home setting. Some hearing dogs also work outside the home, alerting to specific sounds in public settings. These service dogs are trained to get the attention of their human partner by touch, either a nose nudge or a paw on hand or leg, and to then lead the partner to the source of the specific sound.

 

A hearing dog’s specific tasks may include:

  • Alerting to specific sounds at home. For example, a hearing dog needs to warn a non-hearing partner to the doorbell, a smoke alarm, a crying baby, a cooking timer, an alarm clock buzzing, phone ringing or someone calling the name of the dog’s partner.
  • Alerting to specific sounds away from home, such as police, ambulance or fire truck sirens, car horns, cell phones, smoke alarms at work or school, and fire drills.
  • Other duties may include the retrieval of dropped objects (keys, glasses, coins), carrying messages between spouses or other family members, warning of a vehicle approaching from behind, entering a dark home first at night to turn on any lights and provide safety against possible intruders.

 

Service Dog Tasks – Service dogs generally receive 6 months to a year of schooling to assist people with a wide variety of mobility issues. While many service dogs partner with humans who are severely impaired or have a degenerative disease, others benefit those people who suffer with hidden disabilities such as a seizure disorder, a psychiatric disorder, or conditions which cause chronic pain. These highly trained service animals work to provide their partners with the ability to manage pain, conserve energy, and secure a measure of self-sufficiency.

 

The duties of a service dog may consist of:

    • Retrieval-based tasks, such as bringing a partner the phone, picking up dropped items, fetching an out-of-reach wheelchair, retrieving a purse/wallet and unloading towels from a dryer.
    • Carrying-based tasks may include transporting items from one person to another, paying for purchases at high counters, bringing in the mail or a newspaper, and/or moving items upstairs or downstairs.
    • Deposit-based tasks; for example, dropping trash into a wastebasket, putting dirty dishes into the sink, loading clothes into the washing machine, and placing shoes or other items into a closet.
    • Tug-based tasks can include opening drawers, cupboard doors and a refrigerator with the use of a strap, closing a bathroom stall door for the disable partner, tugging off socks without biting the foot, and opening or closing drapes by pulling on a drapery cord.
    • Nose-nudged tasks are the exact opposite of tug tasks; i.e., shutting doors and cupboard drawers, calling 911 on a K9 rescue push-button phone, turning light switches on and off, and returning a paralyzed arm or foot to its correct physical position.
    • Pawing tasks are taught to those dogs who prefer using their feet instead of their noses while on duty and include the same set of assignments geared to provide access and safety to their disable pet parents.
    • Mobility assistance revolves around such tasks as opening doors, assisting a partner to turn over in bed, preventing a fall by bracing, getting a partner in and out of a bathtub, helping an ambulatory partner to walk short distances or climb stairs, transporting textbooks, and possibly working with a partner to pull a wheelchair up an incline.
    • Crisis assistance means the dog may need to bark for help on command, find a care-giver on command, hold the partner in an upright position so that a wheelchair user can take meds or access a phone, or wake up a sleeping partner if the smoke alarm goes off.

 

  • Medical assistance for a disabled partner can include duties such as fetching an insulin kit, calling 911 for help in a crisis and letting first-responders into the home.

 

Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – The psychiatric service dog is trained to help individuals with such debilitating conditions as Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Depression, ailments attributed to a brain chemistry malfunction. In addition to the task training given other service dogs, psychiatric dogs must have mastered the behaviors of no nuisance barking, no aggressive or intrusive behaviors and no intrusive sniffing into another person’s or dog’s space to accommodate their partners’ emotional issues.

Even more important than assisting with everyday tasks, psychiatric service dogs provide emotional support using some of the following methods:

 

  • They provide tactile stimulation to disrupt any emotional overload happening with the partner. When their human experiences flashbacks, nightmares, or any other psychological distress, service dogs are trained to vigorously lick the person’s face or use a nose nudge in order to bring the partner back to full awareness and interrupt any inappropriate behavior.
  • When tactile stimulation doesn’t work, psychiatric service dogs can cause an abrupt change of scene to ‘break the spell’ of emotional overload. For example, a dog can turn on room lights, switch on the television, fetch a beverage or medication, or initiate a game of ‘tug toy’ to vanquish the distressing thoughts, feelings and images and prevent sleep disturbances of their person.
  • These dogs are taught to wake up their human partner for work or school. Panic Disorder, PTSD, and Major Depression can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Success has been noted in fighting back against avoidance behavior, apathy or withdrawal by having the service dog respond like a hearing dog to the alarm clock in the morning. It may also be possible to train the dog to go by his internal alarm clock to eagerly awaken the person at a certain hour of the day, through use of a feeding schedule or, if not motivated by food, by the promise of a walk.
  • Those who suffer from panic attacks have reported that the deep pressure of the weight of a medium size dog or a large dog against their abdomen and chest has a significant calming effect. It can shorten the duration of the attack and often prevent the symptoms from escalating. This same task performed by service dogs on autistic children and adults prone to panic attacks has become known as ‘deep pressure therapy’ in the assistance dog field.

 

To get a visual idea of exactly how service dogs affect the lives of their human partners, you can watch this short, informative video.

 

How is a veterinary eye exam performed?

Whether your pet is a service dog or just your furry companion, eye exams should be an integral part of your pet’s annual health exam. During an ophthalmic (eye) exam, your veterinarian may perform a number of tests. These tests can help identify problems with the eyes or underlying diseases that may affect the eyes. Your vet may recommend that a veterinary ophthalmologist – an eye-care specialist – evaluate your pet if the eye problems are found to be chronic or extensive.

 

A complete veterinary eye exam should include the following tests:

  • A visual exam of the eye and its functionality. The veterinarian may observe how the pet moves around the room or if he or she follows a cotton ball when tossed near the eyes. A menace test may also be conducted to see if the pet blinks when a finger is moved toward, but without touching, the eye.
  • A Schirmer Tear Test to determine if your dog is producing enough tears to properly lubricate the eye. This test works by positioning a small strip of paper in each lower eyelid and holding it in place for 60 seconds. A gauge on each strip indicates the amount of tear production.
  • A fluorescein stain test shows any painful abrasions or ulcers on the cornea that cannot be seen without a vet exam. During this procedure, the vet or vet tech drops a small amount of fluorescent, lime-green dye on the eye and the cornea is examined under a blue light looking for scratches or divots in the tissue.
  • An intra-ocular pressure reading will be taken using a device called a ‘tonometer.’ Testing for glaucoma (high eye pressure caused by improper fluid drainage within the orb), a few drops of liquid ocular anesthesia are placed on the cornea to numb the eye surface. The vet will gently tap the tonometer on the surface of the eye several times to get an average eye pressure number. High pressure is a sign of glaucoma – a symptom of unchecked diabetes and some genetic disorders, while low pressure may be a sign of uveitis (inflammation of an interior layer of the eye).
  • Your vet can facilitate a thorough inspection of the fundus (the back of the eye) by dilating the dog’s pupils and examining the interior of the eye, including the retina, the optic nerve and the interior blood vessels.

 

Because a service dog’s ability to see the world around him is so important to the safety and independence of his disabled human partner, regular eye exams are necessary. The ACVO’s commitment to service dog health with National Service Dog Eye Examination Month and free exams allows people without veterinary health insurance to get much-needed healthcare for their canine life partners.

 

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catebCate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

April is Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs Month

By: Cate Burnett

Ticks and Canine Lyme Disease – What To Watch For With Our Pets

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, 5686 dogs out of 34,545 tested positive for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis, in the state of Texas in 2015. As of this publication date in 2016, 754 dogs have already shown as positive. With warmer weather now upon us, the tick population in the southern US is expanding. This increases the chances of our canine companions contracting these deadly diseases.

Because April is Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs Month, we want to place the focus on this chronic and painful disease and discuss what we as pet parents can do to keep our dogs healthy and happy year round.

History of Lyme Disease and Geographical Regions

Veterinarians first diagnosed canine Lyme disease in Connecticut in 1975, although scientific evidence indicates that the ailment has existed in wildlife for a number of years. Recent DNA testing to preserved tissue from a mouse that died in 1894 shows that the mouse was infected with the disease.

Dogs throughout the US can by affected by Lyme disease; however, it is only prevalent in wooded and rural areas where there is a high concentration of ticks. Eighty-five percent of all cases occur in the eastern coastal states from Maine to Virginia. The Northern Plains states and the Mid-West (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan) account for the second highest incidence level of reported disease. The West Coast and the Southeastern states from Texas to Georgia and the Floridian peninsula rank next.

The reported increase of Lyme disease in the 20th Century is thought to be due to certain environmental factors. Prior to 1900, areas of this country were heavily settled and deforested, reducing native deer populations and the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. Now that many of those same areas are being re-planted and restored, the numbers of deer are increasing. This coupled with increased awareness and testing capabilities has led to the greatly increased reporting of the disease.

Transmission of Lyme Disease and Life Cycle of the Tick

Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacteria call a ‘spirochete’ for its spiral shape. The primary carriers of this bacterium are the Eastern black-legged tick (also called the deer tick) and the Western black-legged tick. Extremely small, ranging in size from a grain of sand to a sesame seed, black-legged ticks live in shady, moist ground and can be found clinging to tall grasses, brush, shrubs, and low-hanging tree branches. They can also be found in gardens and lawns at the edges of wooded areas where deer and mice, the ticks’ preferred hosts, flourish.

Just about this time of year in the spring, tick larvae begin to emerge from eggs that were laid in the fall. The larvae feeds on small woodland mammals like mice and, if the mouse is infected, the larva enters the tick’s body through its saliva. This infected larva grows until the following spring where it molts into an adult tick. The infected adult tick then feeds on a larger mammal – namely your dog or you – and passes the B. burgdorferi into the bloodstream.

For the tick to transmit the bacteria, it must be attached to its victim for about 48 hours. If the tick dies or is removed before that time, transmission of the bacteria does not occur. Even if the tick is attached for more than 48 hours, your dog may not contract the disease.

Infected dogs pose no risk of transmitting the Lyme disease to other canine or human members of the household. After a full meal (the allotted 48 hours), ticks detach and don’t feed again for several days. There is a risk from ticks that have not eaten fully and become detached in that they might seek out another mammal to feed and pass on the infection.

Symptoms of Canine Lyme Disease

The clinical signs of Lyme disease typically occur 2 to 5 months after a bite from an infected tick. Unlike humans, dogs do not develop the rash or circular red area commonly seen around the tick bite.

Your infected dog may present with…

•Lameness

•A high, persistent fever of between 103 and 105ºF

•Swollen lymph nodes

•Joint swelling and inflammation

•Lethargy

•Loss of appetite

•Stiff walk with an arched back

•Touch sensitivity

•Breathing difficulties

Additionally, some dogs develop chronic, progressive kidney disease as a result of the Lyme disease. Because this consequence is extremely difficult to treat, most veterinarians will recommend running additional blood work on your affected dog to check for continuing renal function. Chronic cardiac problems and nervous disorders have also been seen in some pets diagnosed with Lyme disease.

The clinical signs of Lyme disease may be ongoing and chronic. Some dogs can be perfectly fine one day and showing symptoms the next. A proper diagnosis and long-term veterinary treatment are typically necessary to clear your dog of the organism and prevent a relapse.

All breeds of dogs are equally susceptible to Lyme disease, though dogs used for hunting or other outdoor sporting activities are at higher risk for exposure to ticks.

Diagnosis

Lyme disease is usually diagnosed based on a medical history that includes the possibility of tick exposure, suspicious clinical signs, and results of diagnostic testing.

Several laboratory tests can identify the B. burgdorferi organism in blood or tissues. Additionally, a quantitative antibody test (QC6) can measure the level of antibodies in the bloodstream of your affected dog to determine whether treatment is recommended.

More commonly, veterinarians use an in-clinic SNAP test to check for all tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Similar to the common heartworm test, this SNAP test is very accurate, uses only a tiny amount of blood and only takes a few minutes to show results.

Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests if your dog shows signs that other organs may be affected by the bacteria causing the Lyme disease.

Treatment and Prognosis

Treatment of Lyme disease generally consists of administration of antibiotics and (if necessary) other medications to temporarily help control joint pain and other clinical signs. Doxycycline is the most common antibiotic that is prescribed for Lyme disease, but others are also available and effective.

Your dog will probably be treated as an outpatient unless other ailments relative to the Lyme disease (severe kidney and/or cardiac involvement) are detected.

Some dogs show dramatic improvement after only a few days of receiving antibiotics, but most veterinarians now recommend a 28- to 30-day course of treatment. Unfortunately, the antibiotic treatment does not always completely eliminate infection with B. burgdorferi bacteria. Relapses are not uncommon, so pet parents are advised to monitor their dogs carefully for signs of illness.

Protection from Lyme Disease

The best protection against Lyme disease is prevention. Prevention means:

•Give your pet a flea and tick preventative that can help ensure an infected tick that attaches itself dies before reaching the 48-hour mark, that time period necessary to transmit the disease. Be sure to discuss preventatives with your vet so they can recommend one that is suitable according to your dog’s risk.

•Keep your pets away from tall grass and wooded areas to decrease their exposure to ticks, thus decreasing the odds of getting bit.

•Vaccinations have been developed that help protect against Lyme disease. This is something you should discuss with your veterinarian to decide whether this method of prevention is right for you.

Please Note: If you suspect the tick found on your dog is a black-legged tick, save the tick in a sealed container of alcohol and take it, and your pet, directly to your veterinarian for diagnostic testing.

A quick diagnosis and early treatment can save your pet from a painful, and sometimes deadly, disease.

 

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Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school Cateafter 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

Great Places for Dog Walking in Dallas

Did you know that every dog needs a half hour to an hour of daily exercise to prevent obesity and promote their health?  They do – just like us humans!

Here in Dallas, we do things in a big way, so a quick jaunt will not do for our pooches. Here are some fun places to go dog walking in Dallas.

Turtle Creek Trail

Turtle Creek Trail runs adjacent to Turtle Creek. It runs for 2.1 miles from Avondale Avenue to Maple Avenue. The trail surface is made of concrete and you can cross over to Katy Trail on the southern portion. It goes over the Bowen Street bridge and leads to an overlook and promenade.

Katy Trail

Speaking of the Katy Trail, it is one of the best multi-use trails. It starts at Lytle Street at American Airlines Center and goes to Airline Road. It goes between Dallas’ West End and through Knox Street, Southern Methodist University and the Mockingbird DART station. Your dog will love the soft-surface track that runs along the side of the main trail. The main trail consists of ballast, concrete, and crushed stone.

Santa Fe Trail 

If you feel up to a long walk, there is the Santa Fe Trail. It’s 4.2 miles of concrete. The trail starts at S. Hill Ave and ends at Winstead Drive, connecting the White Rock Lake Park Loop Trail and the Union Pacific Trail. The White Rock Lake Park Loop is one of the most popular walks, which is 9.4 miles itself and goes around a picturesque lake.

These are all fantastic trails that your dog will absolutely love to explore. There will be fowl to observe, grass to roll in, and strangers to smell.  It’ll be a great time!  So get out there and hit the trails!

PS – Our dog walkers know all the best walks, and we know your dogs will like the new scenery. If you want to know where our dog walkers take our client’s dogs, contact us.

Dog and Cat Immunizations – What's Necessary and What's Not

August is National Immunization Awareness Month for the veterinary community and, as pet parents, we need to learn which vaccines our pets absolutely must have to protect against disease and the ones they don’t necessarily need.

Because we understand the debate going on as to how often and how long our furry companions need vaccinations, we advise that you gather all the pertinent information you can regarding your pets’ health and discuss the schedule and duration of inoculations with your veterinarian. Many modern vets are looking at their patient’s ages, health problems, environment and lifestyle before recommending ongoing annual vaccines.

How do immunizations work in the body?

Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection. This type of minor infection, however, does not cause illness; it causes your pet’s immune system to produce T-lymphocytes (white blood cells) and antibodies.

Once the ‘imitation infection’ goes away, your animal’s body is left with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes, as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that disease in the future. It typically takes 10 days to a few weeks for the body to produce these lymphocytes after vaccination. Therefore, it is possible that a pet that was infected with a disease just before or just after vaccination could develop symptoms and develop the illness, because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Normally, vaccinations become part of your cat or dog’s annual exam, and, depending on the type of vaccine and your vet’s discretion, will be administered either yearly or every 3 years. Your veterinarian can best determine a vaccination schedule for your dog or cat depending on the type of vaccine, your pet’s age, medical history, environment and lifestyle. Modern versions of feline and canine rabies and canine distemper vaccines are given every 3 years.

When your puppy or kitten is around six to eight weeks of age, your veterinarian can begin to administer a series of vaccines at three- or four-week intervals until the baby reaches 16 weeks of age. This allows your baby to gradually build up the disease antibodies until full immunity is reached. Veterinarians urge you not to have your new puppy or kitten around unvaccinated animals until after all inoculations are completed.

What types of vaccines are used on companion animals?

Typically, there are 3 types of vaccines used on pets: a. modified live vaccines, b. killed vaccines, and c. recombinant vaccines. The type of vaccine used depends upon the manufacturer and your veterinarian.

  • Modified live vaccines fight viruses. These vaccines contain a version of the living virus that has been weakened so that it does not cause serious disease in people with healthy immune systems. Because live, attenuated vaccines are the closest things to a natural infection, they are good teachers for the immune system. Ex: Distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza for dogs. Panleukopenia, calici and herpes virus for cats.
  • Killed vaccines also fight viruses. These vaccines are made by inactivating, or killing, the virus during the process of making the vaccine. Killed vaccines produce immune responses in different ways than moderated live vaccines. Often, multiple doses are necessary to build up and/or maintain immunity. Ex: Corona virus, leptospirosis, Lyme disease for dogs. Chlamydia, leukemia, and rabies for cats.
  • Recombinant vaccines include only parts of the virus or bacteria, or subunits, instead of the entire germ. Because these vaccines contain only the essential antigens and not all the other molecules that make up the germ, side effects are less common. Ex: Distemper and Lyme disease for dogs, feline rabies.

What are the core vaccines?

Core vaccines are considered vital to all dogs and cats based on the risk of exposure, the severity of disease, and/or transmissibility of the disease to pet parents.

Dogs – Canine parvovirus, distemper, rabies and hepatitis
Cats – Panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calici virus, feline herpes virus type I (rhinotracheitis) and rabies.

What are the elective, or non-core, vaccines?

Non-core vaccines are given depending on your pet’s risk of exposure.

For example, if your dog loves the outdoors and swimming in lakes and streams, you may want to vaccinate against Lyme disease and Leptospirosis. The brown dog tick carries Lyme disease and leptospirosa bacteria often reside in lakes and streams. Your indoor cat may not need the Chlamydia, FLeuk or FIV vaccines, but vets recommend that all outdoor cats be inoculated against these deadly diseases.

Dogs — Bordetella bronchiseptica, Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria.
Cats – Feline leukemia virus, Bordetella, Chlamydophila felis and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

What are the risks involved with vaccinating your pet?

Sometimes, after getting a vaccine, the imitation infection can cause minor symptoms, such as a fever or slight diarrhea. Such minor symptoms are normal and should be expected as the body builds immunity. However, some particularly sensitive pets may develop symptoms of anaphylactic shock.

The inoculation site may become hot, inflamed and itchy. You might notice your pet having problems swallowing (drooling, unable to drink) or breathing (coughing, gasping for air). The face, paws and ears might become swollen or develop hives. Your pet may become sluggish, not want to eat, or collapse. Some animals are known to have seizures. Any of these symptoms constitutes a veterinary emergency and your pet needs to see a vet immediately for relief of the symptoms.