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Practical pet care info without the fluff and jargon

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  • How to treat a bee sting at home

    Tips on how to treat a bee (or other insect) sting at home and how to know when it’s time to take your pet to the ER. When a bee or insect (such as a spider) stings a dog, it can result in a sudden allergic reaction. While most dogs are usually stung on their mouths, faces, and paws, stings can occur anywhere on their body. In general, there is no way to predict if a dog will have an allergic reaction, or whether it will be mild or severe. Some dogs will have no reaction to an initial sting, but will then have a severe reaction the next time it happens. Dogs who are stung can experience everything from mild to life-threatening reactions. Mild signs can quickly become severe, and early treatment can help prevent progression of the reaction. Symptoms can include: Mild symptoms of a bee sting Swollen or puffy face Pain in the swollen area Swelling around the eyes Redness around the eyes Lumps and bumps over the skin Redness of the skin Head shaking Itchiness Severe symptoms of a bee sting Severe, progressing itching and facial swelling Vomiting Diarrhea Collapse Staggering Pale gums Swelling of the larynx ("voice box") Difficulty breathing Difficulty swallowing If there are signs of vomiting, breathing difficulty, weakness or collapse, have your dog examined by a vet immediately. Here is what a "typical" allergic reaction to a bee or insect sting can look like (thank you Ranger for being our model!) The "ABC's" of what to do: How to treat a bee sting at home "A" is for assess Assess the area if your pet's body you believe was stung and try to locate a stinger. If found, remove it by scraping it out with a credit card or plucking it out with tweezers. Be careful not to put pressue on the venom sac during removal, as this will inject more venom into your dog. If you don’t feel confident in removing the stinger, wait until your veterinarian can do it. "B" is for baking soda and Benadryl To help neutralize some of the acidic venom, apply a paste of baking soda mixed with water to the sting area. Give 1mg of Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) for every pound of body weight (example: a 25 pound dog would get 25mg of Benadryl). Giving Benadryl is not a substitute for vet care, but can buy time as you make your way to the closest vet office. "C" is for compress Apply a cool compress to the area to help reduce swelling and pain. This will also help constrict the blood vessels, thereby “slowing” the spread of venom.

  • Rattlesnake bites: symptoms, treatment, what to do (and not do)

    How rattlesnake venom affects pets A snake’s venom contains at least 10 types of enzymes to break down tissue. Additionally, there are many other non-enzymes present in the venom, called killing fractions, which are 50 times more toxic than the “crude” venom. When the snake venom destroys the body tissues, it is possible for up to a third of a dog’s body fluid to be lost into the tissue spaces within several hours, which can result in life-threatening drops in blood pressure and your dog ending up in shock. Symptoms of a rattlesnake bite Snake bites on dogs are not always easy to diagnose, especially if you didn’t see the bite happen or if your dog has a heavy fur coat that may hide puncture wounds. The first thing you might notice is marked swelling, due to the tissue destruction and body fluid “leaking” into the damaged area. Additional clinical signs may develop either immediately or several hours after the snake bite. Bruising and skin discoloration often occurs within hours of the snake bite because the venom causes the blood to not clot. There’s usually intense and immediate pain at the site of the bite, which helps differentiate snake bites from other causes of swelling, such as bee or spider bites, and swelling generally progresses for up to 36 hours. If your pup’s been bitten, they might also collapse, vomit, have muscle tremors, go into shock, or have shallow breathing. Here is a summary of signs that may indicate a rattlesnake has bitten your dog: Swelling around the area of the bite Bruising and skin discoloration Sudden Collapse Muscle tremors Shallow breathing Lethargy and weakness (ataxia) Bleeding Diarrhea and/or vomiting Dilated pupils First steps to take if a rattlesnake bites your pet Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible! Keep your pet calm and immobile, and carry them if necessary. If you can do it safely, take these extra measures prior to transporting to your vet: If the swelling is not in the face, muzzle your dog to avoid being bitten; snake bites are very painful and your dog may unintentionally snap at you. However, if the swelling is in the face, avoid touching this area all together. Immobilize the part of your dog that the snake bit; try to keep the area at or below heart level. TIP: Learn ahead of time where your closest vet or ER is that carries anti-venom in stock and keep that info handy. If your pet gets bitten by a rattlesnake, you'll already know where to go for treatment, saving precious time. What NOT to do Don't attempt to treat rattlensnake bites at home Don’t attempt to “make an X” and cut open the area around the bite; you will only cause a wound. Don’t bother to use a Snake Bite Kit or Extractor Pump — they’ll actually do more harm to your dog. Don’t put ice on the snake-bite area. Applying ice constricts the blood vessels locally and actually concentrates the venom, causing severe muscle damage. Don’t rub any substances into the snake bite. At this point, the venom has entered the bloodstream, and any substance applied topically is ineffectual. Don’t apply a tourniquet; you will only succeed in causing further tissue damage and possibly create a need for limb amputation. Don’t allow your pet to move about freely. Don’t attempt to capture the snake for later identification. Treatment of rattlesnake bites Because the onset of clinical signs can be delayed for several hours, dogs that have been bitten by a snake should be hospitalized for at least 12 hours and ideally 24. Although most dogs generally need to be supported and monitored for up to a week, the vast majority of dogs — 95% — do survive snake bites with early and proper treatment, so, get your dog to the veterinarian right away. Antivenom is the only proven treatment against pit viper envenomation, and the earlier it is administered, the more effective. The biggest downside to antivenom is cost; it can range anywhere from $450 to $700 per vial. Usually, a single vial will control the envenomation but several vials may be necessary, especially in small dogs or cats.  Many animals may do “fine” without it, but it does decrease the severity of clinical signs, as well as speed overall recovery with reduced complications. Blood work is also recommended to monitor your pet’s platelet count as well as clotting times of the blood. IV fluid support, intensive pain management, antibiotics and wound monitoring are required for best outcomes. Blood and plasma transfusions are sometimes needed in severe envenomation. While there is a “rattlesnake vaccine” available, there have been no controlled studies for its effectiveness. The purported benefit of the vaccine is that it may create protective antibodies to neutralize some of the injected venom, and in turn may lessen the severity of the clinical signs, however, there is just a likely chance that this will increase the potential for anaphylaxis. One of the biggest myths is that if your dog has had the vaccine, they don’t need to be treated if they are bitten; get your pup to the vet ASAP regardless of their vaccine status. Will my pet survive a rattlesnake bite? Several factors influence the severity of snake bites. The most important factors are the volume of venom injected and the toxicity of the venom itself. Other factors include: The amount of regenerated venom since the snake's last bite. If the snake hasn’t bitten in a while, when they finally do, they produce more venom and it’s more concentrated. Aggressiveness of the snake. The more threatened they feel, the more concentrated the venom. Motivation of the snake. Offensive strikes are more severe. The size of the pet being bitten. Smaller dogs and cats are more severely affected than larger dogs due to their small body size to venom ratio. Plus, smaller dogs have less body to “absorb” the venom. The size of the bite and location of the bite. The “best” place to be bitten is in the legs or face, as the regional swelling and changes in the local blood supply can actually slow the uptake of the venom; envenomation to the body is more concerning as the broader area allows for the venom to be absorbed more rapidly. Bites to the tongue are the worst and result in rapid and devastating clinical signs. Time. The time elapsed from bite until seeking medical treatment has a significant impact on damage that may occur. A pet’s activity level. The amount of physical activity since the time of the bite. Read our blog for tips on how to help prevent rattlesnake bites in the first place.

  • Rattlesnake vaccines - yes or no?

    Rattlesnake envenomation poses a serious threat to our canine friends, leading many pet owners to consider vaccination as a preventive measure. However, it's important to be armed with all the facts before deciding. While this may seem like a "good idea," the 2022 American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine Vaccination Guidelines actually advise against its use. With that, we wanted to share a more information around "the why." At this time, there is currently no published data showing the efficacy of the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) venom toxoid (vaccination) in dogs. While one published study looking into the western diamondback rattlesnake venom toxoid does exist, it reveals a lack of evidence regarding the vaccine's efficacy in dogs. In this study, 100 mice were vaccinated with western diamondback rattlesnake toxoid and then subsequently given doses of venom. While some of the vaccinated mice had an increased survival time with the vaccine, another cohort of the vaccinated mice died or required euthanasia earlier than the unvaccinated mice following exposure to venom. In a nutshell, this study is not directly applicable to real-life scenarios with our dogs and there is no clear evidence that this vaccine helps. In fact, it may actually do more harm. Adverse reactions, including anaphylaxis, have been reported in dogs that were vaccinated and then later exposed to rattlesnake venom. This highlights the vaccine's potential risk, especially without definitive proof of its effectiveness. The Complex Nature of Snake Venom Adding to the challenges with creating a broadly effective rattlesnake vaccine lies in the intricate nature of pit viper venom, which includes rattlesnakes among others. The venom is antigenically heterogeneous, meaning it varies greatly even within the same species. Despite manufacturer's claims of a vaccine offering cross-protection against bites from different types of pit vipers, credible data supporting this in dogs is also still absent. Alternative Measures Given these concerns and the current state of evidence (or lack thereof), it's important for dog owners to consider alternatives and preventive measures: Keep Dogs on a Leash and stay on open paths while hiking. Be sure to keep away from high grass, rocky outcrops, or holes where snakes might like to rest. If you see a snake, remember they can strike only a distance of half their body length; give the snake time to go away, as they are not looking to interact with you or your dog. Thankfully, most snakes will try to avoid you and your pets and typically only bite as a last resort. Rattlesnake Avoidance Training for dogs can be an effective way to teach them to steer clear of snakes. Stay Informed about the local snake species in your area and their behavior. Immediate Veterinary Care: If your dog is bitten, immediate veterinary attention is still the most effective response. Polyvalent antivenin, which works against the venom of multiple snake species, is a treatment option that can be lifesaving. Antivenom is the only proven treatment against pit viper envenomation, and the earlier it is administered, the more effective. When it comes to snake venom, every minute matters. TIP: Learn ahead of time where your closest vet or ER is that carries anti-venom in stock and keep that info handy. If your pet gets bitten by a rattlesnake, you'll already know where to go for treatment, saving precious time. Before considering this vaccination, we advise consulting with your veterinarian who can provide guidance based on the latest research and the specific risks associated with this vaccine for your dog. To learn more about what to do (and not do) if a rattlesnake bites your pet, click HERE. If you'd like to read the 2022 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines, you can find them HERE.

  • How to treat a cat bite abscess at home

    What is an abscess? A cat bite abscess is a “pocket of pus” located somewhere in the body. Common bite locations include the head/face, forelimbs, and the base of the tail.  Below are general guidelines and steps on how to treat a cat bite abscess at home. How does it happen? The sharp canine teeth and claws of a cat create puncture wounds in the skin during a fight. These punctures quickly seal over, trapping bacteria from the biting cat's mouth or claws beneath the victim cat's skin, providing the ideal environment for bacterial multiplication (abscess formation). What are the signs I should look for and how can I treat a cat bite abscess at home? Cat bite abscesses appear as a painful swelling that can either feel firm to the touch or compressible like a water balloon. They are often warm to the touch. Because puncture wounds are tiny and heal over quickly, you'll often not notice anything is wrong until a few days later when the abscess has formed and symptoms such as swelling, discomfort, and possible drainage emerge. Sometimes abscesses are not noticed until they rupture and drain a foul-smelling pus (this is actually a good thing to have happen). Key home treatments include draining the pocket of pus, providing wound care, and starting antibiotics and pain meds. It is strongly recommended that you see your vet for treatment, but when this is not possible, the following steps can be considered: Drain the Abscess: If the abscess is soft and seems ready to burst (and hasn't already burst on its own), you can gently attempt to drain it. Use a clean, sterilized needle or scalpel (disinfected with alcohol) to make a small knick in the skin at the most prominent point of the abscess. Gently squeeze the pus out, then clean the area again. Clean the Wound: Gently clean the abscess with warm water and mild soap. You can use a clean cloth or gauze. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol as they may further irritate the wound. Never use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol for cleaning a drained abscess. This will delay healing and can worsen the problem. Warm Compress: For the next 3 to 5 days, apply a warm, moist compress to the abscess to help promote drainage and relieve pain. Hold the compress on the abscess for about 10-15 minutes, several times a day. Antibacterial Solution: After cleaning the wound, you can use a diluted antiseptic solution (such as povidone-iodine) to disinfect the area. Be sure to follow the product's instructions for dilution. Apply an Antibiotic Ointment: After each compressing and cleaning, apply a thin layer of an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the wound. This can help prevent further infection. Be cautious not to use any ointment that contains ingredients harmful to cats (like zinc). Monitor for Improvement: Keep a close eye on your cat's condition. If the abscess doesn't start to improve within a day or two, or if your cat's condition worsens (they become lethargic, quit eating, seem to have a fever, or is acting painful), consult a veterinarian immediately. Oral Antibiotics and Pain Management: If the abscess is extensive or if your cat's condition deteriorates, your veterinarian will want to prescribe oral antibiotics and pain meds to better address the injury. Alternatively, you can schedule a virtual appointment with Spot to have these medications delivered to your door. Cat bite abscesses can be serious, and home care is not a substitute for professional veterinary treatment, especially if your cat is acting ill. Always consult with your veterinarian to ensure the best care for your cat's specific situation.

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