Is Your Pet Protected from Heartworms?

Is Your Pet Protected from Heartworms?

Did you know more than one million pets in the U.S. have heartworm disease? To shed some light on this serious, potentially fatal disease, we have put together some basic data to keep you informed.

Let’s take a look at who transmits it and is at most risk, what symptoms to look for, where the disease is most prevalent, when to take action, why it’s vital to consult your veterinarian, and how to best keep your four-legged furchild safe and healthy!

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Heartworms – foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets – are the cause of heartworm disease. We most commonly find the disease in dogs, cats, and ferrets, but it also affects other mammals such as wolves, foxes, sea lions, and (very rarely) humans. While wild species like the fox and wolf are considered significant carriers since they can live close to urban areas, the more vital component of the transmission of the disease is the mosquito.

Here’s a closer look at the life cycle of heart worm disease.


Dogs may not show many or any symptoms in the early stages of heartworm disease. As the infection persists or the number of infected worms increases, they often show signs such as:

  • Persistent cough
  • Resistance to exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen belly
  • Heavy breathing
  • Pale gums
  • Discolored urine
graphic of a dog

Cats, on the other hand, are atypical hosts for heartworms and most worms do not survive to adult stages. This means many cats go undiagnosed, either showing very subtle symptoms or displaying severe signs abruptly, including sudden collapse or death. Furthermore, medication used in dogs to treat infections cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means we have to deter feline cases of the disease.

Symptoms to watch for in cats include:

  • Coughing
  • Asthma-like attacks
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty walking
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Fluid in abdomen
graphic of a cat

All 50 states have reported heartworm diagnoses. While some areas may be less of a problem than others, the numerous risk factors to consider make taking preventative measures for the health of your pet very important. Everything from infected mosquitoes being blown long distances to the relocation of infected pets across the U.S. can contribute to the spread of this harmful disease.

This 2019 map below shows the average number of cases per reporting clinic across the United States; however, it’s important to note that not all rural areas have reporting clinics present and therefore may have more cases than are shown.

2019 Heartworm Incidence map

Because this is a serious, progressive disease, it is vital to consult with your veterinarian on how to properly protect your pet from infection and your surrounding community from increased risk. The American Heartworm Society recommends “Think 12” – test your pet for heartworm disease every 12 months, and treat your pet with preventative medication prescribed by your veterinarian 12 times a year.

Think12: Test every 12 months. Treat 12x a year.

Why are prevention and testing necessary? Prevention is the best defense for protecting your pet from this dangerous disease, and if your furry family member is a feline, prevention is the only means available to keep them from becoming infected.

Annual testing is important to ensure the prevention program you and your veterinarian have put into place is working, and while the preventative medication is highly effective, it is not 100% effective. Missing even one dose (or giving one late), vomiting of their heartworm pill, or rubbing off the topical medication can leave your furry friend unprotected and at risk.


The best offense is a good defense – work closely with your veterinarian to put a prevention program in place that will help you protect your pets from heartworm disease. Not only will your vet have the knowledge and experience to provide you and your pet with the best information and resources available, but preventative medication must be purchased from your veterinarian or with a prescription through a pet pharmacy per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Is your pet well-protected? For more information on preventative best practices and answers to your medication questions, or to schedule your four-legged family member’s annual heartworm test – call us at Grand Valley Animal Hospital at 701.757.3500.

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What Does a Veterinary Dermatologist Do?

What Does a Veterinary Dermatologist Do?

Skin conditions in dogs and some cats is a common concern for many pet parents. From behavioral signs like excessive licking or scratching to physical symptoms such as hair loss, red skin and scabbing, there is a wide range of skin irritations and diseases that can develop from various causes.

These conditions also range from mild irritation to extreme pain in your pet’s skin if left untreated, so it is best to seek help from a veterinary dermatologist for the best course of action.

What is a veterinary dermatologist?

Veterinary dermatologists are veterinarians with expertise and specialized training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of animal skin, ears, hair, nail, hoof and mouth. These specialty veterinarian services are especially proficient in treating allergic skin conditions commonly found in animals.

Cat scratching by right ear.

When should you think about consulting with a veterinary dermatologist?

Veterinarian examining skin on dog’s neck.

If your cat or dog shows signs of excessive licking and scratching behavior that causes itchiness and other skin irritations, or shows symptoms of skin conditions, make an appointment with our vets for an examination, skin scraping or prescription treatments. If symptoms persist or worsen, or the condition is severe, we would advise setting up an appointment with a veterinary dermatologist to thoroughly examine your pet to diagnose and develop a specialized treatment plan.


What constitutes as excessive behavior in cats and dogs? If you notice your dog is licking or chewing their paws, rubbing their face or sneezing more than once daily for an extended period of time, it may be time to further investigate what is causing this. For cats, they tend to have a grooming routine a couple times a day, especially after meals, but if you notice them continuously grooming several times, closely monitor for signs of skin conditions. 

It is especially advisable to seek out more information and a dermatology consultation appointment for cats and dogs if any of these behaviors result in visible irritations.

Common symptoms of skin irritations:

  • Dull or greasy coat
  • Hair thinning
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Redness
  • Scabbed, scaly or flaky skin
  • Sores or swollen areas

There are many things that can cause your cat or dog to experience these symptoms of skin conditions. Some may be more easily treatable with shifts in nutrition or care routines, while others are more serious and severe in nature, which require more extensive treatment plans.

Common causes of itchiness in cats and dogs:

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Bacterial infection like staphylococcus, or ‘staph’
  • Fungal infections like yeast and ringworm
  • Parasites like fleas, ticks, mites, lice
  • Skin cancer
Dog licking paw.

The best approach to help keep your pet’s skin healthy is to consult with your veterinarian when you notice signs of irritation so we can work with you and your pet to determine the best course of action. If needed, we may suggest you make an appointment to meet with a veterinary dermatologist.

Veterinarian dermatology services coming to Grand Valley Animal Hospital

Dr. Amanda Young

At Grand Valley Animal Hospital, we continuously strive to provide the best comprehensive services that help your pet live as healthily and happily as possible. We are pleased to announce that Dr. Amanda Young, DVM, DACVD, will be offering on-demand veterinary dermatology services on a bi-monthly basis at our clinic tentatively beginning in May 2020.

Dr. Young is a board-certified veterinary dermatologist currently based out of the Pet Dermatology Clinic in Maple Grove, MN. A graduate of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, she spent four years in a small animal general practice outside of Chicago before completing her internship in specialty dermatology at the University of Illinois and her residency in veterinary dermatology at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center in 2019.

Dr. Young will be offering services at Grand Valley Animal Hospital that include the diagnosis, treatment and long-term management of skin, ear and allergy conditions for your pet.

To make an appointment with Dr. Young, please contact the Pet Dermatology Clinic directly by calling 763-210-1177. If you have any questions about these services or appointment setup, please do not hesitate to give our team at Grand Valley a call.
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Seasonal Pet Allergies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Seasonal Pet Allergies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Allergy season is upon us, and we can’t forget that our pets develop allergies, too. Pets can develop seasonal allergies towards plants, dust, dander, and more. If untreated, allergies can leave your pet in severe discomfort and pain. Let’s learn about what pets are most commonly allergic to, symptoms of various seasonal allergies, and how to treat these allergies to leave your pets feeling happy and healthy!

Pet Allergies

Just like humans, our pets can develop allergies when their immune system identifies something such as pollen, dust or food as harmful. When this happens, the body may stimulate the release of chemicals to alert to the sensitivity and this can lead to allergy symptoms.


Dogs can develop seasonal allergies throughout their lifetime, and terriers, retrievers, setters, and brachycephalic breeds such pugs, bulldogs, and Boston terriers are more likely to experience common allergies. Cats can also develop allergies and tend to have severe reactions when exposed to whatever their body is identifying as dangerous. If your cat spends time outdoors, they may be more susceptible to pollen and flea allergies.


What can cause your dog or cat to experience allergic reactions? Here is a list of some common allergens:

List of common dog and cat allergens.
ist of common dog and cat allergy symptoms.

Pet Allergy Symptoms

Dogs and cats have similar symptoms of allergies. If you notice your pet has any of these particular symptoms, they might be experiencing an allergic reaction.

Treating Your Pet's Allergies

See Your Veterinarian

If you think your pet has allergies, it’s important to make an appointment before their symptoms worsen. At Grand Valley Animal Hospital, our veterinarians will determine if your pet should be prescribed a medication and recommend an allergy-screening panel – this helps determine which items in or near your home are causing your pet’s allergies.

Additionally, if you believe your pet is having an allergic reaction to a prescription drug or an over-the-counter medication, make an appointment to consult with your veterinarian.

What You Can Do at Home to Treat Pet Allergies

There are effective ways to help treat your pet’s allergies at home, including:

  • Clean Pet Bedding Often – If your pet has a dust allergy, cleaning their bedding once a week and vacuuming at least twice a week should help their symptoms.
  • Weekly Baths – Bathing your pet weekly will also help relieve itching and remove environmental allergens from their skin. However, it’s very important that you use a shampoo formulated to your pet’s species [cats, dogs, ferrets, etc.]; you can find shampoo that will work to eliminate itching on our online store.
  • Flea Medication – To help prevent allergy symptoms caused by fleas, start your dog on one of the medications we recommend, which can be found in our online store or at our clinic.
If you have questions or concerns related to pet allergies, don’t hesitate to ask! Our staff is more than happy to assist you – stop in, call our office, or email us.
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The Do’s and Don’ts of Dental Care

The Do’s and Don’ts of Dental Care

What daily rituals do you have with your pet? Giving them fresh food and water each morning and lots of love, maybe going for a daily walk or giving them a good brushing? If maintaining dental health isn’t on the list, it should be. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and this edition of Pet Talk will get into the nitty-gritty details of keeping those canine and feline chompers sparkling.

Do Brush Daily

Just like you have a habit of brushing your teeth every morning, your pet will expect a daily brushing if you gradually introduce it and remain consistent with daily dental care. Start slow with lots of love and rewards, and if your pet’s patience wears thin, give them a treat and finish the rest later. Daily brushing is ideal, but in some cases it may be unrealistic and you should aim for three to four times a week minimum. 

Don't Give Pets the Wrong Treats & Toys
While dental chews and treats are not a replacement for daily brushing, they are a good supplement to a complete dental routine and are proven to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation, but only if the right type is given. It is important to remember that dog and cat teeth are no stronger than human teeth, but their jaw strength and need to chew is, which sometimes leads to painful tooth fractures. Hooves, antlers, and some types of hard bones are a major cause of broken teeth. A good rule of thumb to prevent breakage is to never give your pet a bone or chew that you think would be too hard for you to bite down on.
Dog holding a toothbrush
The Dental Necessities
Don't Avoid Bad Breath

While you may think that bad breath is just a normal part of a pet’s life, chronic bad breath can be a sign of some serious underlying issues. One of the most common causes of bad breath in pets is periodontal disease, which affects 90% of dogs and cats after the age of three and can cause tooth loss and damage to the heart and kidneys. Freshen up by talking to your veterinarian to find out ways you can prevent and treat underlying oral diseases in your pet that cause bad breath.

Do Periodically Schedule Professional Dental Cleaning

Just like your regularly scheduled trip to the dentist, pets also require a professional cleaning from time to time. With such a high percentage of pets developing periodontal disease, it is important to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar from a pet’s teeth and to remove bacteria under the gum so it does not affect the health of internal organs and to prevent painful tooth loss.


While brushing your pet’s teeth helps to remove surface tartar, a professional veterinary dental cleaning is truly the only way to remove tartar completely from the teeth, as well as under the gum tissue. 

Closeup of terrier with clean teeth pulling on a multi-colored rope toy
Don't Trust Anyone but a Licensed Vet for Dental Work

It is important to only seek pet dentistry from a professional who is trained and certified to practice dental care on your animal, like a licensed vet or vet technician being supervised by a practicing veterinarian.

Oftentimes, groomers offer ‘teeth cleanings’ using dental tools that they are not trained to use and no anesthesia, which can be dangerous to both the pet and handler. Additionally, the methods they use such as Waterpiks, hand scalers, and other hard devices are actually proven to cause faster calculus buildup and do not address the true issue of examining and treating below the gum line, where infections and disease can occur.

Veterinary clinics, on the other hand, use ultrasonic scalers to clean below the gumline where the disease is occurring and follow up the cleaning by using a low-speed polishing device to ensure that the tooth surface is completely cleaned. Professional veterinary dental cleanings should always be performed under anesthesia, as this prevents pain for your pet and allows for a thorough cleaning and assessment of the entire mouth.


Don’t leave your pet’s dental health to chance; contact us to schedule an appointment to assess your furry friend’s dental health and talk about tips for brushing success today at 701.757.3500.

Give Your Pet Something to Smile About!
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