What is a Titer Check?

Taking responsibility for your pet’s health would, naturally, entail yearly vet checkups and routine vaccinations, like rabies, distemper, bordatella and parvo virus. But have you ever stopped to wonder just exactly why you’re vaccinating your pet every year? Do you yourself get a chicken pox vaccination every year? How about a hepatitis shot?

We do not get vaccinations every year because we don’t have to and it’s possible our pets don’t either. Veterinary medicine is finally catching up to human medicine and the way vets think about vaccinations is changing for the better.

Shortly after your pet turns 16  weeks old, they typically have completed all their vaccinations, at which point, titer checks can be run for subsequent years to determine a pet’s immunity to certain viruses without blindly pumping them full of toxic vaccinations.

Titer checks are used to determine the existing levels of antibodies to disease in the blood. By drawing 1 ml of blood vets can test for actual immunity levels in your pet. If the levels come back too low, or negative, they might need another vaccination, however once a positive or strong immunity level occurs, the titer check will likely indicate that your pet will not need another vaccination.

“An animal with a positive test has sterilizing immunity and should be protected from infection. If that animal were vaccinated it would not respond with a significant increase in antibody titer, but may develop a hypersensitivity to vaccine components,” according to Dr. Ron Schultz, a renowned pet vaccination expert, who was recently quoted in Dogs Naturally.

Administering yearly vaccinations to a pet who is already immune can result in disastrous and expensive health issues, as it would in humans if we were vaccinated yearly. Vaccinations should not be given blindly or based on age. The determining factor for giving your pet a vaccine or booster shot according to Dr. Patrick Mahaney, an experienced vet, should be their immune system, “if your pet is sufficiently immune, giving them a vaccine doesn’t make them more immune.”

Cost

The cost of a titer check varies between vets, cities and states. In Charlotte, NC titer checks range from $70-$90 and near the D.C. area they run about $110. The cost of vaccinations can often be less than the titer check, which is why some vets do not offer it to many clients.

The cost of a titer might be slightly higher, but the price your pet’s health will pay for yearly vaccinations could be high.

Rabies

A titer check can be used to check for the rabies vaccine, however, rabies is required by law and states do not accept a positive titer check in place of a current rabies certificate.

Consult with your vet about replacing your pup’s yearly vaccination schedule with an annual titer check instead. Reach out to several vets in your area to discuss the benefits of titer checks, prices and what is best for the overall health of your pet.

 

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Pet Insurance- How to Choose

We hear a lot about insurance today. Health, dental, vision. We seek it out as part of job packages and have to shift through pages of policy information that can seem foreign to those new to the insurance marketplace. Finding the best and most affordable insurance for yourself or  your family is hard enough let alone ever having to think about insurance for Fido or dear old Kitty.

Yep, you read that right, pet insurance. It is a real thing. Plan options, wellness add-ons, dental coverage. All of it and more just for your pet. While it might be hard to fathom paying for another insurance plan, think about how expensive vet bills can be for even the most common ailments. Think about your dog or cat’s breed specific conditions and hereditary issues- most of which are covered by almost all pet insurance companies. Paying a little each month is better than getting saddled with a $4,000 vet bill when an emergency happens.

Just like people insurance there are many different factors to consider when trying to pick out a plan for your pooch. Age, breed and your state of residence will affect your monthly premium choices but aside from the cost you will need to decide what coverage is most important to you. Things like dental, holistic and alternative treatments, reimbursements for medications, supplements and prescription food coverage.

There are several big players in the pet insurance marketplace: Embrace, Trupanion, Nationwide (formerly VPI), Healthy Paws, Petplan, PetFirst and Pets Best. Take our pet insurance quiz to find out which is best for you and then view our full comparison guide. Please keep in mind this information is in no way an endorsement for any particular insurance company and before purchasing any plans, contact each company with specific policy questions.

ins quiz

Pet Fire Safety

National Pet Fire Safety Day is quite a mouthful to say but the idea is quite simple. July 15th is designed for pet parents as a reminder to do a quick safety check around the house, making sure it is “pet proof” and updating your family’s fire evacuation plan to include your pets.

Pet proofing is often done when bringing home a kitten or puppy for the first time, but after months and years go by some of these simple safety tips escape us. Here are a few fire safety tips about those innocent household items we often forget about.

  • Candles

Burning a candle on the coffee table or bathroom counter can add a nice cozy feel to the room; however curious cats that get free range of the furniture can cause some serious problems. Not only can they get up there and push off the burning candle, their fur can easily catch fire.

Candles also cause damage when placed on an unsteady surface. If your cat or dog were to bump into it, could they knock the candle over?

  • Gas Stovetops

Whether it is your cat crawling around the kitchen countertops or your all too naughty husky mix who thinks anything on the counter is his, they are in the position to twist the stove knob. Gas stoves are dangerous for two reasons: if pushed hard and turned correctly by your pet, a flame will emerge. Secondly and most dangerously, if the knob gets turned just enough, carbon monoxide will leak.

  • Lamps

Free standing and table lamps while a beautiful alternative light source than an overhead light, should never be left on when your pets are home alone. Lamps have the ability to tip over, from the swish of an excited pup’s tail or the nuzzle of a cat who likes to rub his head on every surface. When you turn a lamp on and head out the door you are leaving open the possibility for your pet to knock over the lamp, causing the hot bulb to break and potentially cause a fire.

  • Electrical Cords

Cords strung behind the TV can look like a great chew toy for your teething pup or kitten. Make sure all cords are hidden and tucked away. Frayed cords can overheat, create electrical shock and catch fire.

After checking your home and doing some pet-proofing, take a second to discuss with your family your fire evacuation plan. How and where you get out of the house is what will save your life, but once you’re out the last thing you want to do is go back in for the cat or dog. Make sure you have a plan in place for your pets too. The ASPCA has a few great resources in disaster preparedness and the National Fire Prevention Association has tips on fire evacuation plans including a checklist printout for pets.

Using window or door decals identifying the type and number of pets you have is also an excellent safety precaution to ensure your pets make it out safely in the event of a fire. Join Nana’s Pet First Aid & CPR this week in honoring Pet Fire Safety Day by completing a home check and updating your pet’s emergency plan.

 

 

Snakes The Time

In honor of the Copperhead living in the bushes around my office, I figured snakes the time to talk about snakes -alright I know…all bad wordplay aside, snakes are a serious concern. Living in a region of the US that has several varieties of venomous snakes, I am always on the lookout for slithering neighbors around my house, office and often on the walking trail. But being a pet mother and pet safety instructor I am always watching. I can understand what a snake is but our pups are genuinely curious, learning by touching, sniffing, licking and do not always understand when they could be in danger.

The most lethal aspect about a venomous snake is not that they can inject you with poisonous venom, instead it is the fact they are often hidden. Hiding away in the yard clippings for the compost, seeking refuge in the wood pile, camping out in the cool shade of the bushes near the deck or wandering their way through the border grass and ivy so often used for landscaping. None of these places make their long moving bodies visible.

Worst part? These are places we reach, step, move and touch without looking. They are also places of great interest to the sniffing, licking, touching, curious pups we parent.

copperhead

Copperhead Snake

Majority of snakes try to retreat when they are encroached on, whether this encroachment happens by accident or not, the snake’s first reaction is often to get away. But there are some venomous snakes who get defensive, hold their ground and are more likely to strike.

Certain snakes, whether bumped on accident by your pooch’s paw or not, have a high probability of biting. In North Carolina, the Copperhead and Cottonmouth are quickest to strike and the Pygmy Rattlesnake normally attempts to slither away, but if further bothered, will quickly attack.

You can easily identify venomous snakes by these markers, according to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences:

  • A pit between the eye and nostril and the scales on the underside of the tail are not divided
  • No pit between the eye and nostril and most scales on underside of tail are divided
  • Tip of the tail has a “rattle” or “button”
  • Top of head with large symmetrical plates
  • Top of head with irregular, fragmented scales
water moccasin

Cottonmouth Snake

When you spot a venomous snake, you have time to assess and move away. But dogs walking in the border grass and accidentally waking a Copperhead, do not have the same time to move away. According to PetTech, the first international training center for pet first aid and CPR for cats and dogs, the majority of snake bites “occur on a dog’s head, neck, front legs and paws because they investigate their world with their nose, head and paws. Bites to the head and neck can become very serious because of the potential to interfere with breathing.”

What you do in the first few moments of a venomous snake bite can result in the life or death of your pup. What then can be done? Aside from the basics of prevention- making sure you never let your dog walk in tall grass, ivy, get into bushes, under the porch or into the woodpile, snakebites may still occur regardless of how careful you might be.

Once bitten symptoms will immediately start to occur.

Signs venom has been injected include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding around fang punctures.

Other signs include:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Vomit
  • Weakness or nervousness
  • Convulsions

Take immediate action to restrain, muzzle and immobilize your dog, keeping the bitten limb level with the rest of the body if possible. The sooner you can get our pup still the slower venom will spread giving you a better chance to save your dog’s life. Treat for shock and begin transportation to a vet as soon as possible.

Call the vet on the way to let them know the situation so they can be ready and waiting for you when you arrive. Do not waste a second of time getting your pet in the car and to the vet. After a venomous snake bite, dogs need to be monitored for 24 hours to ensure no further complications or infections occur.

Shock management, restraining, muzzling and snakebites are all topics covered in the PetTech first aid programs. Summers are great for hikes, long walks, trips to the mountains and even just enjoying a stay-cation in your own backyard. But nowhere will you be completely snake free. It is important to remember that even after killing a venomous snake, the snake can still possess the nerve reflex to bite.

Taking a pet first aid class today will help prepare you for a snake bite situation in the future. You never want to be sitting there wishing you knew what to do. Be proactive in your safety and the safety of the four-legged children in your family.

Enrolling in a PetTech PetSaver class will give you all the tools you need to keep your pets happy, healthy and alive during these snake infested summer months.

To find our more information on how you can help improve the quality of your pet’s life visit Nana’s Pet First Aid & CPR.

Volunteering

Over the weekend a group of my pet sitters and I went to Animal Care & Control to volunteer for a few hours. For several years now I have wanted to get a group of sitters together for volunteering but time always seemed to slip by quickly and the year ends before I have a chance to catch my breath. This year, however, we managed to take moment and I am so glad we did.

1My team and I were deciding on where to volunteer, there are so many choices, among them The Charlotte Humane Society and Animal Care & Control and ultimately my sitters chose Animal Care & Control and I was thrilled. Animal Control often gets a bad wrap but after spending the day with their team, I can confidently say, they are one of the biggest pet advocates in the city.

Their intake levels have been down, which is excellent, and they have invested a lot of time into pet enrichment, education, vaccines and spay/neuter services for the community. I could not be prouder of the work they are doing for the animals in our county. We learned quite a bit about their animal intake process and discovered that they care for more than just cats and dogs. They take in bunnies, birds, horses and they even once cared for a monkey, who they found a home for in a sanctuary in California.7

Our morning of volunteering consisted of cleaning food bowls and kitty crates, filling Kongs and treat containers and, of course, playing with and loving on cats and dogs!

As our time was nearing an end, I knew the reality of our fun morning would be coming. We were about to pack up and ship out, leaving behind these adorable, loving pets. Pets who need a home. Pets who need a caring family and someone who will adore them the way they adore us. Someone to count on, to have fun with, to bond with.

Talking with one of the volunteer dog walkers, she said the hardest part of volunteering 4was leaving, “I would sit in my car and cry in the parking lot for ten minutes after I left. I just felt so bad, how could you not?” Eventually she was able to turn her sad frustration into a positive experience. She has made it her mission to bring as much joy to the dogs she walks during the time she has with them. And what more could you ask for in a volunteer?

It took a lot of self restraint not to leave with two kitties and a little chihuahua myself and one of my sitters nearly walked away with another husky. What made leaving easier for us was seeing the lobby full of people there to adopt. A few people even brought their current pets along in hopes of finding a four-legged child brother or sister. It was fantastic to see. 6

Adopting a dog can be scary at first, you never know where they have been or how they have been treated. But there is nothing more rewarding than being able to give a second life to these pets. I cannot vouch for every city’s Animal Control program, but the one we spent the day with has a dog trainer who works with the dogs that come in. The trainer assesses their personalities and works on basic training and socialization so these pups are ready for their new homes.

The sitters and I left Animal Care & Control Saturday morning with a new mission- sign up 5to become regular, long-term volunteers.  We want to continue to help give back to the community in the best way we know how, by loving on and caring for pets in whatever capacity we can.

I really encourage anyone looking to volunteer to look into your local Animal Control program, I think you might be surprised at how much they do in your community. I also strongly encourage anyone looking to add a pet into your home to consider adoption.
The majority of pets in shelters and rescues are lost and abandoned pets that are never reclaimed.

These pets touched my heart and encouraged me and my staff to get started on a monthly volunteer basis and help with education about shelter pets. I hope you will let these pets touch your heart too!