Friday, April 26, 2013

Heartworm Disease and Prevention

Canine heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is becoming more common. Heartworms are treatable and preventable. The veterinary community is spending an enormous amount of money to improve the public education level on the disease in hopes of decreasing the high numbers of cases being diagnosed.


Signs & Symptoms of Canine Heartworm Disease

The most common signs of heartworm disease in dogs are the following:
  • Dry chronic cough
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low energy levels
  • Cases have been documented where dogs have died suddenly due to over-excitement

Causes of Canine Heartworm Disease

Heartworms are a species of roundworms and live in the arteries a dog’s lungs and heart, and the blood vessels that surround both. The infected worms are transmitted from mosquito to dog after the mosquito has picked up the parasite from an infected dog. The mosquito is the carrier of the disease and the dog is the host for the disease. The mosquito carries the young immature worm, known as microfilaria; this young worm matures into the infective stage in the mosquito, and then is passed to a dog once the mosquito bites. The deposited microfilaria lands on the skin and begins to migrate through the skin and connective tissue, where it eventually makes it to the dog’s bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the worm is transported to the lungs, where it continues maturation and will begin to reproduce offspring. This entire process generally takes six months, while the adult heartworm can live in the dog up to seven years. Dogs of any age or breed are susceptible to heartworm infection.
As the heartworms multiply and take up space in the pulmonary arteries, a tremendous amount of damage is often the result. These worms will also take up residence in the right side of the heart. Once inside the heart, the flow of blood becomes restricted and this reduces the amount of blood to other organs in the body. If there are a large number of heartworms residing in the heart, this disrupts the function of the valves, causing heart damage. Congestive heart failure can be a complication with the more severe cases of heartworm disease. While the worms are lodged in the pulmonary arteries, this causes a decrease in blood flow, and most importantly the amount of oxygen that is getting to vital organs. These are worms that have been measured to be 6 to 20 inches long. Heartworms are NOT contagious from one dog to another by any kind of direct contact..

Diagnosis of Canine Heartworm Disease

Diagnosing heartworms can be done at your veterinarian’s office with a few simple in-house blood and antigen tests. Currently there is a test that requires just a few drops of whole blood from your dog and can be run in about 10 minutes. This test will show a positive if there is enough of the heartworm antigen in the bloodstream. Once it is positive, an additional blood test known as a direct test, a sample again of whole blood, is examined under the microscope and the young heartworms can be seen. The number of baby heartworms that are present under the microscope give an indication of how advanced the disease is. If your veterinarian suspects the positives from the blood tests are correct, he or she will want to do some radiographs and ultrasounds of the heart to determine what condition the organ is in. Once all of this information has been examined, your veterinarian will stage the disease from mild to severe, and this will determine what treatment plan will be best.

Treatment for Canine Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is generally a very treatable disease. In the past, treatment was quite dangerous as the medication used to contain a very toxic drug known as arsenic. This caused a fairly high rate of fatalities and some nasty reactions. Your veterinarian will most likely admit your dog to the hospital and proceed with the following phases of treatment to treat ADULT heartworms:
 Phase I:
  • Administer a single injection deep into the muscle around the hip area and observe overnight for any possible complications.
  • Your dog will be sent home the next day with strict orders to REST for at least 30 days. This is not total confinement but very close.
 Phase II:
  • You will return with your dog to the hospital where two more injections will be given 24 hours apart and he/she will again stay at the hospital for observation.
  • Based on pre-treatment testing, there may be some additional blood tests or repeat radiographs and ultrasounds done at this time.
Resting your dog for 30 days is absolutely critical to the success of the treatment. In that time period, the adult worms are dying. They will begin to break up and be carried through the lungs and eventually absorbed by the dog’s body. Any kind of excitement during the period will disrupt this activity and could lead to sudden heart failure and death.
Baby heartworms, or microfilaria, can be killed by giving your dog a dose of heartworm preventive. The active ingredient in this product has shown to be successful with minimal side effects. This will require a stay in the hospital where the technician staff will administer the dose and observe closely for any adverse reactions. An additional blood test is usually done to ensure the baby heartworms have been eliminated.

Prevention of  Heartworm Disease

The American Heartworm Society recommends using a preventative year round, for the life of your Dog or Cat .
Heartworm disease is absolutely preventable. There are currently several once-a-month heartworm preventive drugs that are available through your veterinarian. A heartworm prevention plan is essential for a complete wellness plan for your dog. 
  • If your dog has heartworms and is treated successfully, he/she can get the disease again if you do not follow a monthly heartworm preventive program.
  • Your veterinarian should recommend yearly heartworm testing for your dog.
  • Your veterinarian should recommend the first heartworm test to be done on puppies at six months of age.
  •  Heartworm prevention can be started as early as six weeks of age.

Heartworm Disease in Cats 

Heartworm in cats is caused by infestation of the organism Dirofilaria immitis, a parasitic nematode (roundworm) commonly referred to as the heartworm. The severity of this disease is directly dependent upon the number of worms present in the body, the duration of the infestation, and the response of the host (the infested cat is the host).

The prevalence rate of heartworm disease in unprotected cats that have not received the proper preventative medication, or prophylaxis, is significantly lower than that of  unprotected dogs -- approximately one-tenth the rate of dogs. Additionally, most cats have only a few heartworms present, and the worms infecting cats are physically smaller and have a shorter lifespan than those infecting dogs. Outdoor cats are at increased risk, and are twice as likely to contract heartworm disease as indoor cats.


 There are no specific tests that are able to diagnose heartworm disease in cats. A variety of tests that may be done to aid diagnosis include a urine analysis, heartworm antigen and antibody tests, x-rays which may reveal the enlargement of certain veins or arteries associated with heartworm disease, and an electrocardiograph (ECG), which may allow for identification of worms in the heart or pulmonary artery. An ECG can also exclude or confirm other heart diseases that may exhibit similar symptoms.


 Heartworms are a preventable disease, and there are a number of medicinal preventatives that are highly effective and commonly used.  Dr. Birken can determine which prevention is best for your cat.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Broward County Rabies Registration Requirements

Broward County > Animal > Tags/Shots > Registration Requirements

Pet Registration

Losing a dog or cat is one of the most heart-breaking situations a pet parent can go through. For many people, a pet is a beloved family member and the thought of losing that pet and not being able to find him is painful.

Every day Broward County Animal Care receives dogs or cats that have become lost from home. Unfortunately, many of these pets have no form of identification on them, making it virtually impossible to contact their owner.

The best way to ensure a happy reunion with your dog or cat is to have your pet properly registered with us. Once registered, you will receive a Pet Registration Tag that must be securely attached to your pet’s collar. The simple act of registering your pet and keeping a collar and tag on him at all times will help to identify your precious family member. This way, if your pet does becomes lost, we are able to contact you right away so that he can return home as quickly and safely as possible.

Benefits of Pet Registration

Pets are our friends and companions. They look to us for everything from food and water to shelter and love.

They also need us to be their “voice” so that if they become lost from home, they are able to let someone know who they are and where they belong. By registering your dog or cat, you are giving your pet a voice so that they will be able to “phone home” in order to be reunited with you.

By simply registering your pet with us:

·    We will be able to keep your pet’s information on file, as well as your name, address and phone information.

·    If your pet becomes lost, we (or someone who finds your pet) will be able to check your pet’s registration number and link to your contact information so you can be called about your pet’s whereabouts.

·    Your pet’s registration confirms that you are the registered owner of the pet.

Not only does pet registration benefit your pet, but the fees we collect are used to feed and care for the homeless pets in our care. In addition, $2.00 from each tag issued is used to fund our SPOT (Stop Pet Overpopulation Together) Program, which promotes responsible pet ownership through spaying and neutering.

Pet Registration Requirements

Broward County law requires both dogs and cats to wear an official Broward County Pet Registration Tag. The tag should be worn by your pet at all times so that he can be identified in case he gets lost from home.

Dogs and cats four months or older must be registered.

·    All dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies to be registered. A copy of a current Rabies Certificate, issued by a licensed veterinarian, must be presented at the time of purchase.

·    If a licensed veterinarian has determined that a rabies vaccination will be detrimental to your pet’s health, he may issue a Waiver Certificate. This Certificate must be signed by the veterinarian and sent to Broward County Animal Care. However, a Pet Registration Tag must still be purchased.

·    “Indoor” pets are not exempt from Broward County’s Pet Registration requirement. Every day, Broward County Animal Care receives “indoor” animals that have slipped out of an open door or window, or escaped through weak or loose screening. Such pets easily become lost since they are often not familiar with their neighborhood.

·    Pets that have a tattoo or microchip are still required to have a Broward County Pet Registration Tag.

Types of Pet Registrations and How They Work

The Pet Registration works in conjunction with your pet’s rabies vaccination because you cannot purchase the tag until your pet is vaccinated against rabies.

Pet Registrations:

1. One-year Pet Registration Tag:

·    Available if your pet has received either a one-year or three-year rabies vaccination from a licensed veterinarian.

o  SPECIAL NOTE: If your pet received a three-year rabies vaccination and you purchased a one-year license, you must remember to renew the Pet Registration Tag when it expires in 12 months, even though your pet’s rabies vaccine is still valid for another two years.

The Pet Registration is valid for one-year from the date of the rabies vaccination.

·    If your pet received both a one-year rabies vaccination and a one-year Pet Registration Tag on February 3, 2012, both the rabies vaccination and pet registration will expire on February 3, 2013.

·    If your pet received a one-year rabies vaccination on February 3, 2012, but you do not purchase the Pet Registration Tag until March 3, 2012, the Registration Tag will only be valid for 11 months, since the rabies vaccine will expire on February 3, 2013.

Civil Penalties for an Infraction of Chapter 4 Ordinance

Rabies Vaccination Required (Section 4-10)

First Offense $67.50

Second Offense $87.50

Third Offense $162.50

Fourth and Subsequent Offenses $300

Licensing of Dogs and Cats (Section 4-11)

First Offense $67.50

Second Offense $87.50

Third Offense $162.50

Fourth and Subsequent Offenses $300


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Safety Tips


Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, where we take time to appreciate our loved ones, including our furry (or not so furry) friends. However, there are some holiday related hazards to be aware of when it comes to our pets.

  • The traditional Thanksgiving menu is high in fat - turkey skin and potatoes, for example. A diet high in fat can be harmful to your pet's health, so it is best to refrain from feeding them table scraps. It is particularly risky to feed dogs scraps containing bones, which can cause choking if they break or splinter. Even if you are not feeding your pet directly, keep an eye out for your pet jumping on the table or grabbing food that falls on the floor. Even better, keep your pet out of the room where the meal is being served.
  • Certain herbs, such as sage, can cause gastric distress and central nervous system depression in animals. Also avoid giving your pet chocolate, onions or raw dough.
  • Keep track of your trash. If you leave unsupervised bags of garbage around, your pet can get into them and eat all the foods you were so careful to keep away from him.

  • Stick to your usual routine, feeding your pet his usual food at the regular time. This makes him less likely to go in search of forbidden foods.
  • Pets can become stressed when there is lots of noise and bustle, or too many people handle them. If your pet is generally nervous in these situations, or shows signs of stress, give him his own space. A dog can be taken for a walk before the guests arrive so that he is calm. Don't let children or strangers handle your pet if it stresses him out.
  • Don't take your pet to parades or big bashes. The loud noises and crowds are likely to cause stress.
  • If lots of people are coming in and out of the house, make sure your dog or cat is wearing a collar. They can easily slip out of a door left open and get lost.
  • Other hazards you may have in your house on Thanksgiving are toothpicks from appetizers, skewers and decorations. Keep all of these far away from your pet.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!




Monday, October 29, 2012

Senior Pet Awareness

With more than 18 million senior dogs, and 22 million senior cats, it is important to help build greater awareness of the special care and changing needs that aging animals require. As a veterinarian I encourage owners of pets ages 7 and older to visit their veterinarians more frequently for senior care checkups.  More medical attention is required for senior pets, and detecting diseases early on is the key to a longer healthier life.

1.     Take your senior pet to the veterinarian for a checkup at least every six months.  This is important in monitoring changes in his or her health.
2.     During your senior pet's regular checkups, regular blood and urine testing can help identify diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages.
3.     Look, listen and feel for bumps, signs of pain, or behavioral changes. Disorientation, changes in sleep or loss of house-training, weight fluctuation, increase in thirst and/or urination, or any change in your pet’s normal behavior could be a sign of a health problem.

4.     Speak with your veterinarian regarding nutritional needs for aging pets.

      5.     Your pet’s gums and teeth can be indications of health problems- dental or otherwise.
6.     Maintaining a familiar routine with your animal is an easy way to minimize stress in their life, in addition to providing exercise for weight control and muscles tone.

7.     Give your pet the love and attention you have always provided.

Establish a senior care program with your veterinarian to improve their healthcare and life expectancy. Love and affection, combined with regular veterinary checkups can help keep your furry companion content in their later years of life.
About the Author

Dr. Alison Birken, owner of Victoria ParkAnimal Hospital, specializes in all general medicine and surgery for dogs and cats. Victoria Park Animal Hospital offers the most state of the art equipment and facilities, in addition to bathing and grooming services.

Victoria Park Animal Hospital
626 North Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
(954) 617-8724



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Costume Contest!!

Halloween is only 4 weeks away!
VPAH is hosting a pet costume contest, judged by our staff and Dr. Birken.

Post pictures on our face book page, Please include, pets name, age and a short description.   Don’t forget to share this with friends and family on facebook

Entries will be accepted until Friday, October 26th.  Winners will be announced on Facebook.

The Winner will receive a free bath, free exam and some fun goodies!!

Visit Us On Facebook!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

When To Take Your Pet To The Vet

Our pets may get sick or feel a little sluggish from time to time, but may get better on their own. However, there are many symptoms that a pet may show that should never be overlooked and require vet care. As a pet parent it may be difficult to know which ones these are sometimes. Following is a list of some symptoms to watch for that should always be checked out by your veterinarian:

  • Unexplained weight loss (even if gradual)
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Excessive liquid/bloody or recurrent diarrhea
  • Sudden inability to get up (may be with or without heavy breathing)
  • Labored/rapid breathing (increased movement/effort in abdomen would be seen) *Does not include normal panting*
  • A cat that is panting
  • Completely non-weight bearing on a leg
  • Pale or blue/purple mucous membranes (look at the non-pigmented part of the gums/inside of lip)
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Loss of appetite with one or more of any other symptoms from list
  • Loss of appetite for more than 24 hours, or decline in appetite over days to weeks
  • Blood in urine
  • Sudden onset of urinary accidents in house/urinating frequently
  • Difficulty passing urine (vocalizing while straining especially in cats)
  • Decline in energy that doesn’t resolve in 24 hours. *If coupled with one or more other symptoms from list, bring in sooner*
  • Inability to get comfortable. Possibly whimpering or crying out, either when touched, moving, or trying to lie down.
If your pet is not their usual self, it’s never a bad idea to have them checked out. You can either call to speak with a Vet Tech to discuss symptoms or schedule an exam. The Vet will need some information about their eating habits, energy level, drinking habits, and how their stools look to help determine what’s wrong.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Special Hurricane price of $50.00
The harsh reality in South Florida is that you can never tell when a hurricane will hit; a harsher reality is that 90% of lost pets never find their way back home.  Protect your loved ones from loss with Datamars pet recovery and identification system.  

Microchipping offers pet owners the only truly permanent method of identifying your pet and linking the animal back to you.   Collar tags can break or become unreadable and tattooing can become illegible. So, if you want to improve your pet’s chances of getting home fast and safe in case it were to go missing, microchipping is your best option.

VPAH is promoting microchipping during Hurricane season.

           Since 1988, Datamars has been designing the most complete portfolio

of RFID solutions for companion animal identification as well as the

Empowering online application Pet Link that supports the reunification

of pets with their owners. Datamars' products include rice-sized glass

and plastic-encapsulated RFID transponders, painlessly injected

under the skin of the animal for permanent identification.


v  Companion animal identification

v  Lost pet reunification

v  Companion animal health record management

Key benefits:

v  Error-free identification

v  Universal readability

v  Extreme durability

v  Fast and painless injection

v  Complete pet ID package

Visit Pet Links online registration at

 Your pets safety and security is our #1 priority…

Victoria Park Animal Hospital 626 N. Federal Highway, Ft. Lauderdale FL 33304  - 954-617-8724