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.

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Poison Prevention Week

Happy National Poison Prevention Week! I know, I know, this is not the most exciting or happy week to celebrate but it might be one of the most important. As reading, understanding, comprehending humans we know what is good and bad for our bodies. We know what is toxic, what will cause damage and make us sick. Our pets, however, rely on our judgement as pet parents to look after what they eat. From food to water to toys, our pets need us to help keep them safe from their inquisitive nature and desire to put everything in their mouths. You know, that pile of junk in the garage that’s oozing some unknown substance (don’t deny it, we all have one) or that tangle of cords behind the TV that is still in reach of the kitty.

Some of these things are common sense like giving chocolate or grapes to your pet but what about the pile in the garage? How often do you think about your pet getting into things around the house? How about the things we willingly give our pets that we might assume are good for them, like peanut butter? In honor of National Poison Prevention Week here is short list of common household items or foods that are severely poisonous to our pets.

  1. Lilies, Tulips and Daffodils

Lilies, especially Easter, Day, Tiger, Asiatic, Japanese and Show Lilies are all extremely toxic to pets. Consuming even two or three petals can result in kidney failure. Ingestion of any kind can be fatal to your feline. Even walking through fallen pollen and licking paws later is fatally dangerous.
lily

Tulips are major cause for concern for those of you who have pooches who love to dig. Tulip bulbs have a high concentration of toxicity to dogs and can cause tissue irritation, vomiting, excessive drooling or diarrhea.

Daffodils contain toxins in nearly all parts of the plant. The bulb, flower or plant can cause extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmia and even respiratory depression. Ingestion of the crystals on the outer layer of the bulb can trigger further reactions in your pet.

If you even suspect your pet has ingested part of these plants, head immediately to the vet or call the Pet Poison Helpline. Check out a complete list of toxic plants here.

2.  Xylitol

This natural sugar sweetener is found in nearly every type of gum, candy, mint, yogurt, ice cream and even some peanut butter. Xylitol has been known to cause hypoglycemia and severe liver damage in dogs. What exactly does that mean? VCA Animal Hospital helped Sweets-Candy-wonderfulus out with an easy explanation, “Xylitol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas. This rapid release of insulin results in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that occurs within ten -60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can be life threatening.” As little as five grams (.17 ounces!) can be life threatening. Check out this complete list of foods containing xylitol and be sure to read ingredient labels or consult this list before giving your pet people food!

  1. Over the Counter Medications

Advil, Aleve, Motrin and Tylenol are four of the most common medications pets can get their paws on. As little as one or two pills can cause intestinal and stomach ulcers and kidney failure. Tylenol is the most toxic according to the Pet Poison Helpline. tylenol “One regular strength tablet of acetaminophen (Tylenol) may cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen leads to liver failure and, in larger doses, red blood cell damage.” Toxicity affects from these medications often lasts five to six times longer in cats than dogs because cats do not have the proper proteins in their stomach to breakdown aspirin. Symptoms of poisoning may appear within ten – 30 minutes or be as delayed at 12-24 hours. Symptoms include: vomiting (potentially vomiting blood), diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal pain and pale gums.

If you suspect your pet may have gotten into your medicine cabinet, call the vet or Pet Poison Helpline immediately even if they do not show symptoms right away.

  1. Pesticides and Herbicides

It is spring time and that means getting those winter lawns looking green again. Killing off unwanted weeds, spraying off bees, mosquitoes and other unwanted pests is common this time of year.  However, your beautiful, bug free lawn might come at a pesticidesprice for your pets. Whether you or a lawn service are caring for your yard, read labels to find out what is and is not appropriate for pets. Dogs and outdoor cats have a tendency to eat grass and dig dirt. When grass has been chemically treated your pet is ingesting those same chemicals. Dog toys that get left in the yard during treatment get coated in toxins too. Dogs and cats often groom themselves and after a romp in the yard, chemicals and toxins stick to their paws and fur, which when grooming, get ingested and can cause damage. If you insist on getting your yard sprayed check out Pesticide Action Network’s Pesticide Database for toxicity and regulatory information.

Short, simple list right? It is hard to remember how each small thing can impact your pet’s well-being. Sending flowers for a birthday, anniversary or holiday never seemed so complicated before, but it is crucial to look up each plant before sending or receiving flowers into your home to make sure they are not toxic to your pet.

What happens if your dog hops onto the kitchen counter to swipe down that jar of Go Nuts peanut butter because it’s just ‘oh so tempting’?

Signs of poisoning can occur immediately or one day later depending on the amount consumed and which type of poison it is. Good indications that your pet has been poisoned are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive salvation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Stumbling as if drunk
  • Pale gums

If you notice any of these symptoms or even suspect your pet is poisoned call your vet IMMEDIATELY! They may instruct you to induce vomiting before bringing your pet in. If possible gather vomit or stool sample for your vet, this may help them determine the cause of poison. For this reason, it is critical to keep an unopened, up-to-date bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the house, as this is often used to induce vomiting in poison emergencies. Only administer hydrogen peroxide at the instruction of your vet!

If you cannot reach your vet call the Pet Poison Helpline 855-764-7661 for instructions. There is a $49 fee per phone call but this is nothing compared to saving your pet’s life.

Pet Temps & Thermometers

As a pet parent and human parent I have come to notice that caring for both types of children have a lot in common. Especially when it comes to getting sick. When a child laments about not feeling well often the first thing a parent will do is place a hand on the forehead to feel for a temperature. If the child feels warm, we take that as an indication of true sickness.

Sick Ill Dog

Picture courtesy of petcarefacts.com by Esther Johnson.

But what about your pets? Have you ever taken your dog’s temperature when you notice they are a bit sluggish or not eating like they normally do? I will take a guess here and say no. You might not even know how to take the temp of your dog (one hint: you use a thermometer- but it’s not going in their mouth).

A dog’s temperature is supposed to hover between 100°-102.5°, anything else and the dog should be headed immediately to the vet. Especially if the temp is higher than 102.5°. Once it rises, the dog will start to overheat, become dehydrated and, of course, a high temp means there is something more serious going on inside your dog.

For the cat pet parents out there, the safe temp range is also 100°-102.5° and newborn puppies and kitties temp is 96°.

But how will you know when your dog has a high or low temp? By following these simple steps:

  1. Turn on your digital thermometer. Never use a glass thermometer; it may break off inside your dog posing a serious health risk.
  2. Apply a non-petroleum based lubricant to the thermometer for easy, pain-free insertion.
  3. Hold your pet securely or get help from another person if possible. Hold up the tail and gently insert the thermometer into the anus about 1/4 inch, a very short distance in, and keep in place until it beeps, which indicates it has measured the current body temperature.
  4. Remove and record temperature.
  5. Clean thermometer and store safely, marking it for pet use only.

It is important to keep a running log of your pet’s temperature and check as often as hourly when sick. Any slight variant in temp when sick should be an immediate trip to the vet. With pets it is often hard to tell exactly when something might be wrong and since they cannot speak up, we must have protocols in place to eliminate hesitations on taking them to the vet. If you get an inkling that something is not quite right with your pet, take the temp immediately and take them to the vet. Simple and easy as that, no hesitations needed.