Thanks to her involvement in the National Veterinary Response Team, Dr. Elsa Swenson has a few ideas of what to do to prevent your whole family from being separated and to keep your pet—and the community’s other animals—safe in an emergency situation.
Dr. Swenson attended a weeklong training course in Anniston, Alabama, at the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness at Fort McClellan. The course included classroom instruction and hands-on training, and culminated with a simulated disaster scenario for the seven teams of emergency responders who were present.
The center at Fort McClellan is the only civilian “live agent” training center in the US; emergency response providers from all over the world have come to the center to be trained in dealing with mass casualties, live agents, and weapons in a real-time, monitored setting. The old army hospital has been repurposed into a training site for hospital workers using mannequins, animatronics whose clinical signs can be changed remotely by a trainer, simulated news casts, and live actors.
The center has mockups of a street, buildings, rooms, a subway, and outdoor sites, all of which can be used in simulations of various disaster situations by several different teams simultaneously responding to the same scenario.
Heartworms: We hear about them a lot and know they’re a danger to our pets’ lives. But what are they, really? We’ve put together a short guide to heartworms to help you understand the danger and how you can prevent heartworms from affecting your four-legged friends.
What are they?
Heartworms are transmitted to dogs and cats by mosquitoes. Wolves, foxes, coyotes, sea lions, and even humans can also carry heartworms. When a mosquito bites a mammal infected with heartworms, the mosquito picks up heartworm larvae. The next time the mosquito bites a mammal, it deposits the larvae into that mammal’s blood stream. The larvae mature and travel through the animal’s blood stream. They can grow up to 12 inches in length, and their ultimate destination is the animal’s heart and pulmonary arteries. Heartworms create permanent damage by moving through an infected animal’s veins.
In dogs, heartworm symptoms generally don’t show up for about six months. Those symptoms include coughing, sluggishness and fatigue, a decrease in appetite, and weight loss. The symptoms are more visible in dogs that are active or have pre-existing health problems. The longer the heartworms go untreated, the more likely they are to cause cardiovascular collapse or caval syndrome by blocking the dog’s blood flow. A dog is likely suffering from caval syndrome if he or she has difficulty breathing, her gums are pale, and her urine is dark and blood- or mud-colored. At this stage, the only way to save the dog’s life is by having surgery to remove the heartworms.
In cats, heartworm symptoms are less visible and heartworms are often only detected when the cat collapses or dies suddenly. Cats may have heartworm symptoms if they are coughing, have breathing problems that resemble asthma attacks, are vomiting, lack appetite, and have been losing weight. If the heartworms go untreated, the cat can have trouble walking and might faint, have seizures, or retain fluid in his abdomen.
As humans, we recognize the importance of good dental care: getting our teeth cleaned and checked each year, taking care of cavities, gingivitis, and wayward wisdom teeth, and following preventative measures such as regularly brushing and flossing. Like us, our pets have teeth that need care and regular maintenance. Poor dental health can make your pet downright uncomfortable, and it can make him or her very sick. Here are a few reasons to add dental cleaning and treatments to your pet’s annual healthcare to-do list.
1. Prevent bad breath and infection
Built-up plaque, tartar, and bacteria can lead to gingivitis, halitosis, swollen gums, and proliferating gum disease. Not only are these ailments accompanied by reeking bad breath, but they can also lead to pain and infection.
2. Prevent dental disease
If your pet has bad breath, discolored or loose teeth, red and inflamed gums or a swollen mouth, jaws, or gums, doesn’t play with chew toys or chew treats as often as he used to, and seems to have trouble eating because of pain, then your pet may have a dental disease.