Canine Heartworm Disease

This disease is found in all areas of the United States and parts of Canada since the early 1970s.

Areas that are heavily populated by mosquitos tend to have higher incidences of heartworm disease. Although primarily it infects dogs, cats and ferrets are also at risk.

effects of canine heartworm disease
Healthy Heart on the Left-Infected Heart on the Right


One mosquito bite can lead to the death of a pet. Once a pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito, the heartworm lives in the blood of a dog’s heart and adjacent blood vessels.

The adult heartworms produce offspring, which are called microfilariae.

These circulate throughout the animal’s blood. This is transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected pet, sucks out blood containing the microfilariae or offspring.

About two weeks in the mosquito, this becomes infected larvae and when the mosquito bites another pet, it infects that animal.

Thanks to veterinary research, there are now medications and procedures that have improved the treatment of this disease.

Like many other diseases, early detection and treatment can lead to a successful cure.

Diagnostic tests and medications to prevent heartworm disease from occurring at all are inexpensive and available from your veterinarian.

However, before your dog can be placed on preventative medications, your veterinarian will request a heartworm screening test.

This is in order to detect the presence of heartworm disease that may already be infecting your pet. Without knowing it, your dog may already be infected.

Therefore it is vital that dogs six months and older have a blood test prior to starting them on the monthly preventative.

Severe or fatal reactions may occur if preventatives are given to dogs that have heartworm disease. If the dog has been to a known heartworm problem area, your vet may recommend additional tests.

Other testing methods may include a complete blood count (CBC), organ function profile, or x-rays. If the disease is detected, these tests can also help determine the degree of infection.

Symptoms of heartworm disease include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Tires Easily
  • Listlessness
  • Weight Loss
  • Rough Hair Loss

Many cases have advanced systems. Some pets don’t appear to have symptoms early on and others do.

Left untreated heartworm disease can lead to congestive heart failure and death. Treatment for heartworm disease can be risky and expensive.

That is why year-round prevention is so very important. If a pet does get heartworm disease and survives-it is not immune and will still need to be placed on a monthly preventative.

It needs to be done, better to do it now before your pet gets sick!

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Eye Health Concerns for Lab Owners

A major health issue that labs face is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). This is illness affects the eyes and can lead to blindness in the Labrador. In addition to PRA the Lab is susceptible to several other eye diseases including cataracts and Retinal Dysplasia.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy involves a deterioration of the retina of the eye that is used to receive light. In most cases, onset occurs about mid-life between the ages of 4 – 6 years.

Due to the late-onset, it makes it very difficult to detect and test the cause of this health problem.

Most agree that the illness is heredity based although there is no solid proof. One of the best ways to prevent passing this illness is for the breeder to regularly have the eyesight of their dogs checked.

This helps identify dogs that carry the gene and can prevent future litters from being bred. When this is completed the results can then be submitted to Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) and will show on the dogs pedigree as Eye Certified.

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Hip Dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers

Hip Dysplasia is an inherited health problem that many larger breeds are susceptible to. The Labrador is no exception and is another reason why it is so important to know the bloodline of your Lab.

The exact cause of Hip Dysplasia is believed to be attributed to heredity but because of the multiple genes involved, it is difficult to prove.

This means it is possible for two parents with good hips to have pups with Hip Dysplasia. Environmental factors also can attribute to hip problems in dogs.

Hip Dysplasia involves an abnormality of the hip and can vary from mild discomfort to severely crippling.

Typically symptoms of Hip Dysplasia begin to show at an early age, usually between 6 and 12 months of age. Although not as common, there have also been cases documented of late-onset Hip Dysplasia in senior dogs.

The first sign is usually mild discomfort shown in the hind legs and is typically heightened after strenuous exercise.

A dog can be tested as early as 4 months of age although testing at this age increases the chance of misdiagnosis. The exam is typically done with an x-ray but a cat scan can also be used if the x-ray does not produce accurate results.

All Labs that are being considered for breeding should have this test completed to ensure they do not pass problems onto pups. A test should also be completed at 24 months because at this age an accurate reading can be determined.

The OFA is responsible for keeping a registry of tested dogs. When tested if a dog shows problems it will be assigned as Dysplasic and show the rating Mild, Moderate, or Severe.

If the dog passes, it will be assigned as Non-dysplasic and assigned an Excellent, Good, or Fair. The cost of this testing is small ($150 – $200) compared to the thousands that is required if Dysplasic pups are born because of the lack of testing. Of Labs that have been tested 13% have tested Dysplasic.

The best way to control this health issue is by only breeding Non-dysplasic. This starts with the breeder being responsible and wanting to improve the breed and also involves the buyer being informed enough to not purchase dogs that have not been tested.

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Spring Allergies in Labrador Retrievers

Spring is a beautiful time of year. Unfortunately, for some of us humans, the beauty of the blooming flowers and full trees is overshadowed with hay fever.

Not unlike us, our labs can suffer as we do. They also can suffer allergic reactions to the environment. Like humans their allergy can be an inherited predisposition.

Although we tend to sneeze at the various pollens, molds and dust that blow around us, our pets typically have itchy skin causing them to persistently scratch, lick and bite themselves to get relief. Secondary infections of the skin can occur from sores created by your pets persistent scratching.

Your vet may prescribe an oral medication to control the itching. In severe cases allergy tests may be given to determine the exact allergy.

Once the cause is pinpointed allergy injections can be administered to build up immunities in your pet’s system. Other treatments are available depending on the severity of the allergy.

If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from seasonal allergies, please visit your veterinarian to have him/her evaluated. Getting the proper treatment, will help your pet enjoy this beautiful time of year.

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Summertime Flea and Tick Prevention

Did you know that a flea’s life span is six to twelve months? During its lifetime, two fleas can produce millions of offspring. What does this mean for your beloved pet and your home? Misery on you and your pet! Disruption of your whole household.

Discomfort, itching, scratching, flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). These tiny creatures can cause mild to severe reactions in your pet.

Since they feed on blood, a severe infestation can cause your pet to become anemic which can cause death. All mammals are susceptible to fleas. The exceptions would be for some that live in high elevations or extremely dry weather.

Remember that just because you do not see fleas on your pet does not mean your pet has not fallen prey to these pests. Flea dirt found on the skin, scabs, dark specs, and scratching can all be symptoms of having fleas. In extreme cases, your dog’s gums and lips may become pale and he may become lethargic.

Fleas can also carry tapeworms. If your dog gets diagnosed with tapeworms this can also mean he has fleas.

Now for some good news!

There are many fleas treatments and preventions available over the counter and from your veterinarian. To treat both your home and you does require some patience by you.

The fleas life cycle is three to four weeks. Which means you can expect it to take at least that long to rid your pet and environment of all fleas.

There are many flea control products on the market available from your vet and also pet stores. The best flea control product is one that will not only kill the adult fleas, but will kill the eggs and larvae. Sometimes it will take a combination of products to be effective.

Fleas dips, shampoos, powders, flea combs, and sprays will usually only kill the adult fleas and only on your pet. Your home and yard also need to be treated. For your home, you will need to vacuum, wash your pet’s bedding once a week.

Cleaning with a disinfectant on washable surfaces. Household foggers or insecticide will need to be used every two to four weeks.

Be careful with these toxic chemicals and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. When using a combination of products make sure you consult your veterinarian on how to best eliminate fleas. A professional exterminator may be a good idea for you as well.

In the yard, you can also spray with insecticide or a more natural approach would be nematodes or microscopic worms that kill flea larvae and cocoons. Apply them once a month until fleas are gone.

Consult your veterinarian, pet supply, or garden store for more info on nematodes. Since sunlight kills fleas, remember to pay special attention to the shady areas of your yard.

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