Mosquito season unpredictable; year-round heartworm prevention is best

Although it may not feel like spring yet, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your pets from spring pests, particularly mosquitoes, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor of the university’s Veterinary Health Center, says mosquitoes carry heartworm, a blood parasite that can be deadly when spread to cats and dogs. Almost 100 percent of dogs exposed to heartworm will develop the disease. While that number is not as high for cats, it is often more fatal for felines.”Cats are sometimes a little less obvious with their heartworm disease,” Nelson said. “It can be just a little weight loss or lethargy, but we can also see asthma-type signs in cats. They can have trouble breathing, develop a cough, chronic gagging and vomiting.”It only takes one or two worms to cause significant harm to a cat and unlike dogs, there is no treatment for heartworm once cats are infected. That’s why it is important to use prevention tools.”We really want to preach prevention for our pets because it’s so much easier and so much cheaper for them, especially since treatment is hard on them,” Nelson said.Nelson also stresses that prevention year-round is key to protecting your pet because just like the weather, mosquito season is unpredictable.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Kansas State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Toward making people invisible to mosquitoes

Sep. 9, 2013 — In an advance toward providing mosquito-plagued people, pets and livestock with an invisibility cloak against these blood-sucking insects, scientists today described discovery of substances that occur naturally on human skin and block mosquitoes’ ability to smell and target their victims.Ulrich Bernier, Ph.D., who gave the talk, cited the pressing need for better ways to combat mosquitoes. Far from being just a nuisance, mosquitoes are more deadly to humans than any other animal. Their bites transmit malaria and other diseases that kill an estimated one million people around the world each year. In the United States, mosquitoes spread rare types of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. They also transmit heart worms to pet dogs and cats.”Repellents have been the mainstay for preventing mosquito bites,” said Bernier. “The most widely used repellant, DEET, is quite effective and has been in use for a long time. However, some people don’t like the feel or the smell of DEET. We are exploring a different approach, with substances that impair the mosquito’s sense of smell. If a mosquito can’t sense that dinner is ready, there will be no buzzing, no landing and no bite.”Female mosquitoes, which suck blood to obtain a protein needed to produce fertile eggs, can smell people from over 100 feet away. …

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Paul Root Wolpe: It’s time to question bio-engineering At TEDxPeachtree, bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe describes an astonishing series of recent bio-engineering experiments, from hybrid pets to mice that grow human ears. He asks: isn’t it time to set some ground rules?TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of …

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Helping pet owners make tough choices

June 14, 2013 — Perhaps the hardest part of owning a pet is making difficult decisions when a beloved companion becomes seriously ill.That’s why Michigan State University researchers are developing a new tool to help people assess their ailing pets’ quality of life, a key factor in decisions about when to order life-prolonging procedures and when an animal’s suffering means it’s time to let go.In a new paper in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, MSU researchers describe a survey they created to help pet owners monitor the quality of life of dogs undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.Veterinarians can use their training, experience and scientific knowledge to objectively assess an animal’s quality of life in response to treatment, said lead author Maria Iliopoulou, an MSU-trained veterinarian and a doctoral student in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies. But outside the vet’s office, pet owners rely on their own subjective impressions of the animal’s well-being.”Dogs obviously can’t tell you how they’re feeling, and sometimes pet owners may not know what changes in canine behavior they should pay attention to,” Iliopoulou said. “By having this tool, we can help owners see what’s really going on with the animal to improve decision making and facilitate the human-animal bond under the challenging circumstances of cancer diagnosis and treatment.”For the study, dog owners completed a questionnaire at the time of diagnosis about how the animal was behaving then and how they typically behaved six months prior. Follow-up questionnaires filled out three and six weeks later documented changes in behavior as the dogs underwent chemo. Meanwhile, the veterinarians filled out shorter surveys based on their observations.”We wanted to see if the owner and the clinician would agree,” Iliopoulou said. “The owner knows the pet, and the clinician knows the science. That’s what the survey is all about, to identify components of a good quality of life and verbalize them in an understandable way to facilitate client and clinician communication regarding patient-care decisions.”As it turned out, responses to the questions by owners and veterinarians were fairly well-matched. That finding told the researchers the questionnaire was a helpful way to find common ground for treatment decisions.The survey responses matched each other — and matched scientific data from the dogs’ medical records — particularly closely on three questions involving changes in the dogs’ play behavior, clinical signs of disease and canine happiness as perceived by the owner. Iliopoulou said the agreement on those questions makes them effective indicators of quality of life that can be used in animal cancer clinics, and in future studies.With 29 participants, all at the MSU Animal Cancer Care Clinic, it’s hard to draw broad conclusions from the relatively small pilot study. Still, Iliopoulou said the results were significant enough that she’s planning a follow-up study with hundreds of dogs and owners. …

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