Keeping Your Pets Safe from Heartworm

heartworm life cycle dog cat mosquito
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April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets. Heartworms are foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets. They cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.

Pets get the heartworm parasite through the bite of an infected mosquito. Once in the animal’s skin, the parasite undergoes a series of lifecycle changes and makes its way to the bloodstream over the course of 3-4 months. From there, it travels to the heart and lungs. Lodging in the small blood vessels, the 1.5-inch worms grow at an astonishing rate, pushing into ever-larger blood vessels. The worms do more than just physically obstruct blood vessels. They also secrete substances that damage the vessels. This damage leads to high blood pressure and weakening of the heart muscle and lungs.

Heartworm in Dogs and Cats

Dogs are much more likely to get heartworm than cats. There are a couple of reasons why. First, indoor cats don’t get much exposure to mosquitos. Second, most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats can, however, still experience long-term and serious damage in the form of Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease.

The symptoms of heartworm infection can be mild at first. Your dog may develop a nagging cough, may tire easily, and may lose its appetite. Cats can have similar symptoms, along with vomiting and/or attacks that sound like asthma.

Sadly, there is no effective heartworm treatment for cats. While it is possible to treat dogs for heartworm, the treatment can take several months and require close monitoring of the animal as well as tight restriction of its activity. Even if treatment is successful, the damage can be permanent and cause a severely reduced quality of life for your beloved pet.

Heartworm Prevention

Prevention, then, is the goal. At Liberty Animal Hospital, we recommend annual testing combined with monthly preventive medication. Testing is necessary to assess the animal’s infection status at first, and then to be sure the prevention is working as intended. Monthly preventive medication is necessary because of the long life-cycle of the parasite. We also recommend monthly preventive medication because it establishes a positive habit and reduces the risk of a dose being missed.

Call us at 720-306-9900 with any questions or concerns about heartworm or any other aspect of your pet’s health.

Related: When is Mosquito Season in Colorado?

According to mosquito trap manufacturer Mosquito Magnet, mosquito season is generally considered to begin once the temperature is consistently 50° Fahrenheit or higher. In Colorado, that is typically in early April…but can be quite a bit earlier than that in any given year. When does it end? Mosquito Magnet has this to say: “The first frost is usually a reliable sign of the end of mosquito season. However, it’s possible that some hibernating mosquitoes will emerge during unexpected warm spells during winter, only to return to their hiding places when the temperature drops.” This makes year-round prevention even more important.

 average time mosquito season colorado


Poison Prevention for Your Pets

poison prevention pets

During National Poison Prevention Week (March 18-24, 2018), Dr. Atakem and the staff at Liberty Animal Hospital want to be sure you are aware that your pets are in just as much danger from poisons as your kids…and maybe more. After all, you can’t sit your pet down and have a discussion about why laundry detergent pods are dangerous. And they may look like they’re paying attention when you shoo them off the kitchen counter, but you know darn well they’re right back up there as soon as your back is turned.

Here are some common household pet poisons you need to be aware of, as well as some important safety tips.

Common Household Pet Poisons

The following are the most common and dangerous household items that can poison your pet:

Other Important Pet Poison Safety Tips (Good for Humans, Too!)

The American Association of Poison Control Centers offers this advice:

  • Be prepared for an emergency. Keep the national, free Poison Helpline number at your fingertips by saving the number in your mobile phone: 1-800-222-1222
  • Practice safe storage habits. Always store medicines and hazardous substances up, away, and out of sight of children. Keep these substances in their original, child resistant containers.
  • Read and follow all labels and directions. Review medicine and product labels before you use them, especially before giving medicine to children.
  • Detect invisible threats. Have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home

#nppw18 #preventpoison



Exactly How NOT to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

dog afraid toothbrush brush your pet's teeth
Click to see almost everything you DON’T want to do when brushing your pet’s teeth…all in a little more than a minute.

Although this video is guaranteed to give you a laugh, there’s nothing funny about dental disease in your pets. Let’s break down where this guy is going wrong, so you can get it right when you brush your pet’s teeth. We see at least 3 areas for improvement.

Don’t Start with an Electric Toothbrush

For that matter, don’t end up there, either. It would be very unusual if your pet wasn’t scared by a strange buzzing object such as this. If you’ve never brushed your pet’s teeth before, start by letting your pet lick a small amount of pet toothpaste from your finger. Do this daily for a week or two until your pet is comfortable with it. From there, move to a finger brush with pet toothpaste. After another week or two, you can move to brushing with a soft-bristled brush. A pet toothbrush will typically have a longer handle than a human toothbrush, but either will work just fine.

A NOTE ABOUT TOOTHPASTE: Only buy toothpaste that is made for pets. NEVER use human toothpaste on your pet. They can’t spit it out like we do, and swallowing it isn’t safe. Pet toothpaste is specially formulated to be swallowed safely. Not to mention, your furry friend will much prefer chicken- or liver-flavored pet toothpaste over minty freshness.

Don’t “Assume the Position”

Paws down and tail up is a classic “wanna play” position. When he approaches his dog in this position, this man is sending a strong signal that it’s play time. Then, when the dog reacts to that signal, the man gets frustrated. For a better, calmer experience, you and your pet should be roughly on the same level. If your dog is large, have him sit with you next to him. If you have a smaller dog or a cat, have the pet sit in your lap so their mouth is easily accessible.

A NOTE ABOUT RESTRAINT: Hold your pet gently to focus his attention, but do not restrain him. Restraint can contribute to panic and result in your pet becoming stressed during teeth brushing.

Don’t Chase a Nervous Pet

This video goes on for more than a full minute…and it probably only shows a portion of the whole experience. If your pet shows signs of nervousness like the dog in this video, such as running away, nipping, etc., back off and try again tomorrow. If you recently changed the process (such as moving from a finger brush to a pet toothbrush), go “backwards” a step for a week or two, then try again.


We are happy to answer any questions you may have about caring for your pet’s oral health. We can also recommend dental products that are safe and effective.


Start 2018 Off on the Right Paw with Training

training-dog-chew-destructive-shoeJanuary is National Train Your Dog Month. Training your dog to be a well-behaved canine citizen promotes safety and strengthens the bond you share. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) has created an entire website specifically to help pet owners do exactly that.

Here’s a sample of the resources you can access through their site: 

Training for Dogs that Bark Excessively 

Dogs bark for many reasons – if they feel threatened, if they feel playful, if they want attention, if they are in pain, or if they are lonely, bored, or stressed. For every reason a dog barks, careful training can help an owner determine the cause and teach the dog appropriate behaviors. 

Training for Dogs that are Afraid of Storms and Fireworks 

Watching a dog tremble with fear during a storm will tear at the heart of any dog owner. And if the dog’s fear gets to be too much, it can lead to destructive behavior and even aggression. For these dogs, training can focus on lessening the dog’s fear through desensitization therapy, soothing the dog with massage or with tools such as a “ThunderShirt” that help it feel safe, redirecting the dog’s focus, or even using certain homeopathic remedies or essential oils.  

Training for Dogs that Chew Destructively 

Dogs chew for one or more of three reasons: teething (yup, just like babies!), boredom, or separation anxiety. Training for chewing that’s getting out of hand can include providing alternatives such as durable and interesting chew toys, using baby gates or crate training to limit the dog’s access to tempting items, and ensuring your dog is getting exercise for his body and his mind.   

For More Information 


Tips for Safe Travel with Your Pet

national-pet-travel-safety-dayJanuary 2 is National Pet Travel Safety Day! Here at Liberty Animal Hospital, we’ve only met a few dogs that don’t jump (literally) at the chance to go for a ride in the car. Cats seem to be a lot less excited, and some of them actively dislike it. We know you love your pets. And if your pets ride in the car with you (willingly or not), we know you’ll be interested in keeping them safe and as happy as they can be on those trips. Here’s how: 

Keep Your Pets In by Keeping Your Windows Up 

We know. Dogs LOVE to stick their heads out of windows. So. Many. Smells! But they can get hit in the eye or the face with road debris such as rocks and gravel tossed up by passing cars. Or a distracted driver (or motorcyclist or even bicyclist) in the next lane could weave too close to your car and sideswipe your pooch with a side mirror, handlebar, or elbow. And if your dog is overly reactive to the sight of other dogs, you might learn the hard way that a large dog actually *can* squeeze himself right out the window before you have a chance to react. The safest choice is to keep the windows up; if you must roll them down for fresh air, roll them down no more than 2 inches. 

Restrain Your Pets with a Car Harness, Travel Crate, or Seatbelt Car Leash 

Unsecured pets – even those that love to be in the car – can be a hazard to themselves as well as to the driver and passengers. Picture an excited dog bounding from the back seat to the front and back again. How could that NOT be distracting to the driver? It’s likely uncomfortable for front-seat passenger as well. The same is true for an uncomfortable pet that dislikes car trips and expresses its displeasure by being vocal, mobile, or both. Finally, if you have to slam on the brakes, your unsecured pet becomes a projectile. Your pet can be badly or fatally injured, and can cause injuries to you if you are in its path. Side note: the metal “separators” that mount inside your car to confine your pet to the back seat are not a solution. In a sudden stop, your pet will fly into that hard metal.) A proper car harness will hold your pet firmly and will attach to the seat belt. Typically less expensive than car harnesses are travel crates. The least expensive option is a special short leash with one end that clips to your pet’s collar and another that clips into the seatbelt latch. 

Bring Food and Medicine for Your Pets; Schedule Stops for Pottying and Water 

Just because you can drive for hours on end without a rest stop, meal, or refreshing beverage doesn’t mean your pet can. Always carry water and a water bowl, no matter how short your trip. For longer trips, be sure to have food and any needed medicine for your pet. Schedule stops every 2-3 hours so you and your pet have a chance to answer nature’s call, have a snack and some hydration, and stretch your legs. 

Never, Never, Never Leave Your Pets Unattended in the Car 

It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Don’t do it. Temperatures inside of your car can climb to deadly levels faster than you can imagine. Even if your car is parked in the shade. Even if you leave the windows rolled down. Even if it’s “not that hot outside.” Even if “you’ll only be a minute.” Don’t.  

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