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Williamson County currently leads all Texas counties in 2011 in confirmed rabid animal cases

3 Sep

Health Service Region 7, which covers Central Texas , has investigated 333 laboratory-confirmed animal rabies cases during January 1 – August 31, 2011. HSR7 had 258 animal rabies cases during all of 2010.

Williamson County currently leads all Texas counties in 2011 in confirmed rabid animal cases with 99 cases.

Other Central Texas counties with notable rabies case numbers (documented through laboratory testing) in 2011 included
– 20
– 11
Burnet – 49
Hays – 15
Llano – 18
Travis – 47
– 10

Please vaccinate dogs, cats and horses against rabies. There has been an increase in rabid horses throughout Texas during 2011. None of the rabid horses were currently vaccinated. Also, please consider vaccinating livestock handled and shown by 4-H and FFA youth and their families.


Additional information on rabies can be found at under “Rabies”.


Understanding Heartworm Disease

24 Aug

By Dr. Casey Hill
Hutto Veterinary Clinic

Lucy & Buddy

Heartworm disease is endemic in Texas. That means there is an ever-present population of the parasite and all of our pet dogs are susceptible to infection. The adult heartworm infests a dog’s heart and the large vessels leading to the heart. Heartworm infection can cause serious problems, including heart failure and sudden death.

Life Cycle

            Dogs become infected with heartworm disease when they are bitten by mosquitoes carrying a larval stage of the parasite. The larvae enter the dog’s blood stream during the mosquito bite and once inside the dog, mature through several other larval stages. Eventually, about two to three months later, the parasite matures into the adult worm which lives in and near the heart. The adult worm takes an additional three months to produce more offspring. These first larval stages (microfilaria) circulate in the blood and are eventually picked up by new mosquitoes as they bite the infected dog.


            During your dog’s annual checkup, your veterinarian can perform a heartworm test. This test should be done annually regardless of whether your pet is on heartworm preventive. Though unlikely, it is possible for a pet to become infected with heartworm disease while on preventive, and it is important for you and your veterinarian to know that this has happened. The most common heartworm test done by veterinarians is an ‘antigen’ test which tests for the presence of mature adult worms. A less sensitive test is to look for microfilaria (the first larval stage) in a blood sample. Neither of these tests will be consistently positive in an infected dog until about six to seven months after infection because of the nature of the lifecycle of the Heartworm.


            The best way to keep your dog safe from heartworms is to use a monthly preventive. The medication in heartworm preventive actually kills the immature stages of the parasite.  The way it works is that after an infective mosquito bites your pet, the immature heartworm larvae are exposed to the heartworm medication circulating through your dog’s system. They then die before they can mature into the adult parasite that is responsible for all of the problems associated with heartworm disease. It is important for dogs in Texas, where heartworm disease is endemic, to receive heartworm preventive medication from their owners every month for life.


            If your dog should become infected with heartworms, she will start off having no symptoms at all. If your pet is being tested regularly for heartworm disease, this is likely the stage he will be in when the infection is discovered. It usually isn’t until more adult heartworms develop that we see problems. The first noticeable sign in an infected dog is usually a cough. Later in the disease we might see an infected dog become weak or lethargic and sometimes these animals will develop a pot belly as fluid accumulates because the blood is not able to flow freely through the heart. Complications of heartworm disease include thrombus, or clot, formation which can cut off circulation to part of the lung or to a limb. This can result in sudden death depending on the location of the clot.


Heartworm Treatment

            Treatment of an adult heartworm infection is costly, painful and dangerous to your pet. It involves deep intramuscular injection of a medication that kills adult heartworms, not just the larval stages which preventive medication kills. It requires pain medication as the injection leave the muscle at the site very tender. Most importantly, a pet undergoing heartworm therapy will have to be on strict cage rest with no exercise for one month after each treatment (usually resulting in two consecutive months of cage rest).

The reason for this is that as the adult heartworms die, they can dislodge and travel to the lungs and form an embolism which cuts off blood flow to that section of lung. This can result in sudden death. With restricted activity we can reduce the blood flow through the heart and reduce the chances of this happening.

Alternative therapy for heartworm disease is to give the pet monthly preventive and kill the larval stage of the parasite. This won’t get rid of the adults in the dog’s heart, but it will keep more larvae from maturing to the adult stage. The adults that are living in the heart of the dog will eventually die and the infection will come to an end.

The danger of this approach is that your pet will remain infected with heartworms during this entire time, which usually takes several years. Also, during this time, your pet is acting as a reservoir for mosquitoes to pick up heartworm disease and spread it to other dogs. But, in older dogs, or ones where strict cage rest cannot be accomplished, this course is sometimes preferable.

Heartworm Disease and Cats

            Cats are also susceptible to heartworm disease. The parasite is adapted to the dog as its primary host, so it is far less likely to establish an adult infection in a cat than in a dog, even if that cat is bitten by many infected mosquitoes. Unlike the dog, a cat with heartworm disease will only harbor one or two adult worms.

Also unlike the dog, a cat with one worm is at a significant risk of sudden death and this is often the fate that befalls a cat who is unlucky enough to contract heartworm disease.

Despite the low chance of infection, the severity of the disease in a cat is so great that the American Heartworm Society, as well as many veterinarians, recommend monthly preventive in cats as well. Even indoor cats are potentially exposed to the occasional mosquito and should be considered at risk.

Dr. Hill joined Dr. John Holmstrom about a year ago at the Hutto Veterinary Clinic on Front Street, and she welcomes new clients and questions from pet-owners.

Equestrian Center’s new website

27 Jul

    County line Equestrian Center (Judy Gibney) has a great new website,

Pet Safety & Hot Weather

8 Jun

We all love spending the long, sunny days of summer outdoors with our furry companions, but being overeager in hot weather can spell danger, warn ASPCA experts.

“Even the healthiest pets can suffer from dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn if overexposed to the heat,” says Dr. Lila Miller, ASPCA Vice President of Veterinary Outreach, “and heat stroke can be fatal if not treated promptly.”
Take these simple precautions, provided by ASPCA experts, to help prevent your pet from overheating. And if you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, get help from your veterinarian immediately.

Made in the Shade
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot outdoors and place bowls in the shade so the water doesn’t heat up to much. . Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful to not over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot.

No Parking!
Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. “On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time 10-15 min)-even with the windows open-which could lead to fatal heat stroke,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. Also, leaving pets unattended in cars in extreme weather is illegal in Texas as well as many other states.

Know the Warning Signs
According to Dr. Lila Miller, ASPCA Vice President of Veterinary Outreach, “symptoms of  overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.” Animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

Make a Safe Splash
Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool-not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset.

Summer Style
Giving your dog a lightweight summer haircut helps prevent overheating. Shave down to a one-inch length, never to the skin, so your dog still has some protection from the sun. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. As far as skin care, be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.

Street Smarts
When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your pooch’s body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum. Walk the dog in the early morning or evening to avoid paw pad burns. Avoid walking the dog in the heat of the day, when the sun beats down, heating the pavement and sand.  Walk the dog on the grass. The grass remains cooler than the sidewalk, lessening a dog’s chance of paw pad injuries in the summer. This makes a trip to a shady park a good option for an afternoon walk in the summertime.
If you aren’t sure how hot the pavement of sand is, put your hand down flat on it. Even with pads that is what your dog will feel. If you can’t walk barefoot on it, neither can they.