Rabies – This is the most feared disease of people as it is incurable and fatal once symptoms are shown. This virus is passed from animal to animal through saliva (i.e. scratches, bites, licks on broken skin or mucous membranes). The most common transmission involving domestic pet dogs is when the dog encounters a rabid animal and is bitten without knowledge by the owner. Most dogs have been vaccinated against the virus, but even with this prevention, the dog should be taken to the vet immediately even if there is the slimmest possibility of exposure.
The first symptoms of rabies occurs with great variety but can take up to 6 months to show. Because the disease affects the brain and spinal cord, there are a variety of things to look for: changes in behavior (shunning affection, overly seeking affection, nervousness, restlessness, developing aggressive behavior), wandering behavior, biting of self, breaking teeth from biting objects, frothing at the mouth, oblivious to pain, paralysis of vocal cords (may seem like they have something caught in their throat and the attempt to get it out, may infect the owner).
There are 2 types of rabies: furious and passive. Many cats show the first kind, which often makes the animal attack anything, such people, other animals, and mostly inanimate objects, such as wheels of cars. The passive kind is more difficult to diagnose, as the animal just seems more lethargic, than sick. Any infected animal can transmit the disease 10 days before symptoms arise. If you suspect your dog has been infected, take him/her to the vet immediately!!! The dog will be re-vaccinated and kept in quarantine for 10 days. If you have an unvaccinated dog, the only real option is euthanasia. In a desperate attempt to save an unvaccinated animal, the dog must be placed in quarantine for at least 6 months and vaccinated 1 month prior to release.
If any symptoms arise, the dog will be euthanized. Most owners (even the bad ones) have their dogs vaccinated for rabies. In the case of taking in a stray with an unknown history, get the dog vaccinated immediately. Puppies will require 1 vaccination at 3 months of age, then again a year later. After that, there are 3-year vaccinations available for adult dogs.
Parvovirus – Parvo is a highly contagious (to other dogs) virus that is passed orally through contact with fecal matter. What makes this such a horrible disease is that being a virus, there is no cure. Even worse, the virus can live many months in the environment, withstanding freezing temperatures and disinfectants (except bleach). Symptoms are fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite. In severe cases, diarrhea may be bloody with a telltale odor. Parvo is most commonly seen in puppies who have not yet developed their immune system fully and may be compromised by other ailments. -Treatment is to treat the symptoms and must be immediate.
IV fluid is used to control the vomiting and diarrhea. Usually dogs are hospitalized for many days and continue antibiotics once they go home. This disease can be fatal if not treated and treatment is often costly. A simple remedy is prevention with a vaccine (series of 3 as a puppy) and worming at young ages.
Heartworm – This is a parasite that is passed to dogs via mosquitoes. The larvae quickly enter the blood stream and travel to the heart. They grow and form microfilari (infected larvae), which can block blood circulation and eventually will cause death if not treated. There are no actual symptoms of heartworm, although a simple blood test can determine if the dog is positive. Some things that may lead you to do a blood test is the appearance of a deep, enlarged chest cavity, poor fur quality, an overall sickly appearance, and knowledge of the dog as a stray or being raised in an inadequate manner. But a completely energetic and healthy dog can be positive. Advanced symptoms of heartworm are the above as well as coughing, and the desire to constantly lay down. Understand that if untreated, this disease will eventually kill your dog in a very unpleasant and painful way.
A heart of a heartworm positive dog. The microfilari overwhelmed this dog, preventing the blood from circulating through the heart. -Treatment is costly but successful if caught early on. First the vet will probably do bloodwork, urine analysis and x-rays to determine the stage of the disease. Once any secondary problems (such as heart failure, kidney or liver insufficiency) are addressed, the next step is to kill the adult worms. Many vets use Immiticide, which has fewer side effects than previous treatments. Two doses are given 24 hours apart. The dog must then remain very inactive for 4 weeks following while he/she absorbs the dead worms. Activity can cause the worms to dislodge, travel to the lungs, and results in death of the dog. After 3-4 weeks, another treatment is needed to kill the microfilaria.
This is often Ivermectin, given orally. Another visit is needed to re-test the dog for heartworm. Treatment will continue until the dog tests negative. Overall, treatment will cost between $400-800, depending upon the stage of the disease, size of dog, and extensiveness of treatment. -The obvious way to avoid putting your dog in jeopardy and costing you a ton is PREVENTION. There are many heartworm preventatives that are administered at your vet. Heartgard, Interceptor, Sentinel, and Revolution are all available to kill various worm species. The first 3 are chewable pills given 1 time each month, while Revolution is a topical that works by absorbing into the skin. All work for a month and should be given throughout the year when mosquitoes are present. Heartworm tests should also be given once a year to be sure.