Canine Behavioral Changes


Has your older dog just not been acting like himself lately? Perhaps he’s not seeking as much attention as he used to and is interacting less with family members, or seems confused or disoriented. Some senior dogs may bark or howl excessively for no apparent reason, show an increase in aggressive behavior or separation anxiety, or become overly fearful or sensitive to noise. Older dogs that have been housetrained for years may start having “accidents” in the house. You may notice a change in your dog’s sleep patterns, with increased restlessness and pacing during the night. These behavioral changes can be as hard on family members as they are on the dog. However, most pet owners attribute them to normal aging and do not seek medical care. 
Any change in your older dog’s behavior should not be considered just a normal sign of aging and should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Many of the behavioral changes commonly seen in senior dogs are related to underlying medical conditions that can be treated, if not cured. For example, your dog’s decreased activity and mobility may be related to arthritis. An increase in aggressive behavior or vocalizing may be the result of painful dental disease. Inattentiveness or apparent confusion may be caused partly by vision or hearing loss. Many of these conditions and disease can be treated, resulting in a better quality of life for your dog
If underlying medical conditions such as infection or cancer have been ruled out as the cause of your dog’s behavioral changes, your veterinarian may diagnose cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).
What is Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?
CDS is not an uncommon condition in older dogs. According to a study by leading animal behaviorists, nearly one in five dogs over the age of seven shows signs of CDS. At 11 years of age, the number jumps to one in three. In a pet owner survey, nearly half of dogs ages 8 and older showed at least one sign associated with CDS. Researchers believe that CDS is caused by physical and chemical changes that affect the brain function in older dogs, similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people.
CDS is a syndrome, or collection of signs. One or more of the following signs must be present, and other medical conditions ruled out as the cause, to make a diagnosis of CDS:
·      Disorientation or confusion
·      Less interaction with family members
·      Changes in sleep patterns and activity, or
·      Loss of house training.
Can CDS Be Treated?
If your dog is diagnosed with CDS, your veterinarian can prescribe an effective medication that can help to control the clinical signs associated with this disorder. However, because CDS is a syndrome (a collection of signs), no two dogs will show exactly the same signs and response to treatment will vary. If your dog responds to the drug, daily treatment will be needed for the rest of the dog’s life.
Give Your Older Dog a New Lease on Life
Contact your veterinarian if you notice signs of CDS or anything unusual in your dog’s appearance or behavior. Don’t assume that your dog’s behavioral changes are an unavoidable sign of old age. With recent medical advances in treatment—and a little extra love and care—you and your veterinarian can help your senior dog return to being a happy, active member of your family.

Heartworm In Cats

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite named Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworms are most commonly found in dogs, but now are known to infect cats and other mammals. The adult heartworms live in the heart and major arteries of the lungs were they interfere with the function of the heart and lungs. The adult heartworm lives for 1-2 years.


Heartworms can only transmitted from one animal to another by mosquitoes. Adult worms living in the heart produce offspring called “microfilaria,” which are found circulating in the blood of infected dogs. A mosquito must then feed on the infected dog and ingest some blood containing these “baby heartworms” if the mosquito later feeds on another pet, the baby heartworms that have developed to the infective stage in the mosquito now escape from the mosquito into the second pet during the “blood meal” of the mosquito. Once these infective larvae pass through the pet’s skin, they begin migrating through the tissues, eventually making their home in the heart and lungs where they can mature into adult heartworms and start the cycle over again. Heartworms can occur in cats kept totally indoors if an infected mosquito should enter the house.


Whereas dogs can live with quite a few heartworms in the heart, because of their smaller size heart, 2-3 adult heartworms can be fatal to the cat.


Clinical signs of heartworm disease in cats are quite variable. Many cats do not show any signs of heartworm disease until they die. In some acute cases, death may come so rapidly that there is insufficient time to make the diagnosis or provide any type of treatment. There are cases reported where the cat can appear clinically normal one hour before death. However some cats will show such signs as vomiting, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Coughing may be intermittent or occur in severe, sudden attacks that take place days apart.


Clinical signs of heartworm are very similar to several other cat diseases. The diagnosis is confirmed with a combination of radiographs, ultrasound, and blood testing.


Treatment of heartworms in cats is not nearly as successful as in dogs. Treatment is complicated by the fact that after even one heartworm is killed in the heart; it can lead to an arterial blockage that has the potential to be fatal. Blood vessels in the cat are so much smaller than larger dogs creating much more risk while the dead heartworm is being removed from the body. Another one of the major problems is that no clinical signs are observed in many cases until close to death.


Since treatment is not very successful, prevention is very important. As stated earlier, even cats kept totally indoors can become infected from a mosquito in the house. Fortunately, a heartworm preventive is available. The medication is given to the cat once/month.

Heartworm Disease and Treatment in Dogs

Heartworm disease in dogs in caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms are spread from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Heartworms usually live in the dogs in two different life stages. Adult heartworms are approximately six inches long and live in the right side of the heart, the side of the heart that pumps the blood to the lungs to get oxygen. The adults produce microscopic babies called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. At our hospital, the heartworm test checks for the adults and baby heartworms, as well as two other blood parasites. Since we have so many mosquitoes in the San Antonio area, heartworm disease is very common. Heartworm disease is totally preventable by giving prevention medication once a month. Dogs over six months of age need to be tested for heartworms before starting on the prevention. If left untreated, heartworm disease can cause sever lung damage and right sided heart failure that is often fatal. At Affordable Pet Care Northwest, we have a high success rate treating dogs with adult heartworms and use the safest protocol available. Our staff will provide an estimate for you before we begin treating your dog. Payments can be made as we complete each stage of the treatment.

Pre-Treatment Evaluation 
If your dog has tested positive for heartworms, we must first do an evaluation to see if your dog is a good candidate for treatment. The evaluation consists of an examination with one of our doctors. Blood is drawn for basic lab work to ensure your dog’s organs can safely tolerate the medication used to kill the heartworms. One of our doctors will call you in two to three days with the lab results. If your dog is having problems breathing or is coughing, we recommend taking x-rays of the chest to see if lung damage has already occured. We will prescribe an antibiotic called Doxycyline to kill bacteria called Wolbachia that lives inside of the adult heartworms. The antibiotic is given for 10 days. This weakens the heartworms and increases the effectiveness of the medicine we use to kill the adult heartworms. We will also dispense a special type of heartworm prevention that is given once a month. The prevention slowly kills the baby heartworms and also weakens the adult worms making the adult worms easier to kill. 

Stage One Treatment: 

After your dog has been on the heartworm prevention for two months, it is ready for stage one treatment. A single injection of a drug called Immiticide is given in the muscles of your dog’s back. This is usually done in an exam room as a pre-scheduled, outpatient visit. The injection causes muscle pain so medication will be sent home to make your dog more comfortable. This single injection kills approximately 50% of the adult heartworms. The worms die quickly, however they become very brittle and break up slowly over a four week period. As they break up, the blood flow will naturally take pieces of dead heartworms to the lungs where they are ultimately dissolved. It is VERY important to keep your dog as calm as possible for at least four weeks following this first injection. If your dog is allowed to jump and play during this time, the worms can break up too quickly and block blood flow to the lungs. This can be very serious, and medical attention will be needed right away. Please monitor your dog closely during this time and call our hospital immediately if you notice any coughing or other signs of illness such as: lethargy, not eating, vomiting, etc. Sometimes tranquilizers are dispensed for excitable dogs to keep them calm during this four week period. 

Stage Two Treatment: 

One month after the first injection, your dog is ready for the final part of the heartworm treatment called “Stage Two.” In this stage, you need to make an appointment to bring your dog in on two consecutive days or your dog can spend the night in the hospital. During this stage of treatment, two injections of Immiticide are given 24 hours apart. Again, the injections are given in the muscles of the back, so the pain medication will be dispensed to make the pet more comfortable. The combination of the two injections kill the remaining adult heartworms. As with Stage One Treatment, it is VERY important for your dog to remain as calm as possible for the four weeks after the injections. Please monitor your dog closely for coughing or any signs of illness and call the hospital immediately if they occur. Four weeks after receiving the injections, we want to see your dog for a complimentary examination. At this time, your dog has successfully completed the adult heartworm treatment. Even though this treatment protocol is 98% effective, we recommend re-testing for heartworms six months after the treatment is completed. By this time, most dogs should test negative. Of course, it is important to keep your dog on the heartworm prevention during every stage of heartworm treatment and for the duration of his/her life. It usually takes a total of four months to complete the treatment protocol from the time your dog is diagnosed. 

Heartworm disease in dogs is very common in our area and is totally preventable. If your dog has been diagnosed with adult heartworms, we believe we offer the safest and most effective treatment protocol available. Please speak to one of our hospital team members, if you have any questions about heartworm disease prevention, or treatment. As always, THANK YOU For the opportunity to care for your pets. 

World Pet Memorial Day

Today is World Pet Memorial Day. The loss of a pet can be extremely difficult, even though we have many cherished memories from the time the pet spent in our lives. Today pet lovers around the world will be celebrating those cherished times and the memories of pets that have passed. We encourage pet owners to take the time to share a memory of a cherished pet with family and friends.

Pets In Cars

During the hot, summer months, please consider the safety of your pet when you take them for a ride in the car. Remember that even if you’re planning on running into a store for just a minute, it’s too dangerous to leave your pet in the car. Just a few minutes in a car during the summer months can raise the temperature to unbearable levels. Exposure to such extreme heat can result in heatstroke, which can cause brain damage or even death. Leave your pets at home in the air conditioning this summer if it gets too hot.

June is Social PETworking Month

June is Social PETworking Month! This is a month designated to help pair families with homeless pets. The campaign allows Facebook, MySpace and Twitter addicts to put their hours online to good use by advertising adoptable pets to their networks to help get them seen and into loving homes. So if you know of any pets in need of good homes, take to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and get the word out this June!