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Newsletter

The staff at the Angel Refuge Pet Cemetery & Crematory Inc. are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to memorial and burial services, end-of-life care, grief counseling and more.

Current Newsletter Topics

Your Dog and Heartworm Disease

Heartworm is a serious, life-threatening disease of dogs. It is due to the presence of the adult stage of the parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle of the heart. Until the early 1970s, the occurrence of heartworm in the United States was primarily confined to the southeastern part of the country. Today, it is found almost everywhere in the continental United States and is a major threat to the dog population of Canada.

Transmission

Transmission of heartworm depends upon the mosquito population of an area. About 70 species of mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the disease. The more mosquitoes in an area, the greater the chance of heartworm transmission. Heartworm disease occurs most commonly in dogs. It has recently been shown that heartworm is a major cause of heart disease in cats. Heartworm also infects wild animals. Coyotes, wolves and foxes are carriers of the disease in the wild. In a particular area, when the wild animals are infected, the disease is permanent.

The adult heartworm is 6 to 14 inches in length. It is thread-like, white in color, and primarily found in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle of the heart. When adult male and female heartworms are present, mating occurs. The female releases large amounts of small, microscopic "microfilariae" into the bloodstream.



Since heartworm is most commonly seen in dogs, this article is focusing primarily on canine heartworm. However, most of this information is also true for the other species that contract heartworm. The circulating microfilariae can live up to two years in the dog's bloodstream. Several microfilariae are ingested by a mosquito when it bites a dog. The mosquito serves as an intermediate host as well as vector (the transmitting agent) for the disease. The mosquito spreads the disease to another dog by injecting the microfilariae at the time of the bite.

Infection

In order for the microfilariae to become infectious, they must develop inside the body of the mosquito. This development occurs only under certain environmental conditions. Two weeks of temperature at or above 70 degrees F is required. As a result of this temperature requirement, transmission of the disease is limited to the warm months.

After the microfilariae have gone through their development, they are ready to infect a new victim. During a blood meal (mosquito bite), the mosquito injects the microfilariae into a new dog. These small, microscopic worms migrate under the skin and eventually enter the dog's blood stream. About 6 months after the initial mosquito bite, the microfilariae arrive at the heart. The final maturation and the mating of the heartworm occur in the pulmonary arteries. The adult worms live in the pulmonary arteries and right side of the heart, where they can survive for seven years.

Adult heartworms cause inflammation and thickening of pulmonary arteries. As time passes, more arteries become inflamed and clots begin to appear. The blocked pulmonary vessels lead to an increase in blood pressure. This increase in pressure places a strain on the right ventricle of the heart. Eventually, heart failure occurs.

Symptoms

Clinical symptoms of heartworm disease develop very slowly. Often, symptoms are not noticeable until 3 years after the initial infection. Most of the symptoms are due to problems associated with increased work load for the heart. Lack of energy and exercise intolerance are early symptoms. Chronic coughing and difficulty breathing are both common symptoms associated with heartworm disease. As the disease progresses, most dogs develop congestive heart failure and ascites. Dogs often collapse in the final stage of the disease.

Prevention

Administration of once-a-month preventive medication is the best method for keeping dogs free from heartworm disease. Ask your veterinarian about the best medication for preventing heartworm disease in your dog.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Dental care is vital to your pet's health. If you've already established a dental care program for your pet, you're off to a great start. But if your pet hasn't received a dental exam from your veterinarian, it's time to get started. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, the perfect time to schedule a dental exam for your pet and develop a home dental care regimen for your best friend.

Why is dental care so important for your pet? Periodontal disease is the number one diagnosed problem in pets. By the age of two, more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease in one form or another. The buildup of plaque and tartar on your pet's teeth leads to bacterial infections that can enter the bloodstream and infect other parts of your pet's body. Periodontal disease has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, osteoporosis and other problems.

The good news is that periodontal disease is easily prevented. Regular dental cleanings and a home dental care regimen can eliminate the plaque and tartar that lead to gum disease and oral infections. During a dental cleaning, your veterinarian also performs a complete oral examination of your pet. This includes screening for oral cancer, broken teeth and cavities. Spotting these problems early makes them easier to treat and improves your pet's overall oral health.

Your pet's dental cleaning is more involved than the same process you go through at your dentist's office. Anesthesia is required to keep your pet still and comfortable during the procedure. Because of this, your pet undergoes a thorough physical examination before each dental cleaning. Laboratory blood tests, as well as other diagnostic procedures are also used to screen for potential problems and risks before anesthesia is administered. Using these results, your veterinarian develops a safe anesthetic protocol specifically for your pet.

A Cat's Teeth Before and After a Dental Cleaning

During a dental cleaning, tartar is removed from your pet's teeth with a hand scaler. Next, a periodontal probe is used to check for pockets under the gumline - where periodontal disease and bad breath start. An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean above the gumline and a curette is used to clean the teeth under the gumline and in the crevices. Finally, the teeth are polished and an anti-bacterial solution is applied to help delay future tartar build-up.

Dental care doesn't end in your veterinarian's office. Brushing your pet's teeth at home is an added level of protection against gum disease. In order to be most effective, brushing must be done at least three times a week; however, daily brushing is ideal. Brushing your pet's teeth can be supplemented with antiseptic rinses. Some pet foods and treats are also effective in preventing plaque and tartar buildup. However, there is no substitute for regular brushing and professional dental cleanings.


Call your veterinary hospital to schedule a dental examination and cleaning for your pet today. Your best friend will thank you!

10 Common Questions Asked after the Loss of a Pet

The loss of a cherished animal companion can cause extreme sadness, intense guilt and a whirlwind of other emotions. Often, you will seek answers to questions that may not be black and white. Below, you will find some of the most common questions pet owners ask of themselves while grieving the death of a pet.



1. When is the right time to euthanize a pet?

Your veterinarian will make a recommendation based on your pet's physical condition and long-term outlook. You, however, have the unique insight into your pet's daily quality of life. By evaluating your pet's health honestly, you will be able to work with your veterinarian to come to the most humane decision for your individual pet. The decision to euthanize will never be easy, but is often the final act of love you can provide a pet who is suffering.


2. Should I stay with my pet during euthanasia?

This is a completely personal decision that you will need to make. Many pet owners want to be there for their pets and witness it so they can see it happened peacefully and without pain. This can be traumatic, but not witnessing the death may make it harder to accept that the pet is really gone. Also, you want to gauge your own emotional strength- if you have an uncontrolled outpouring of emotions before your pet passes, it may be upsetting for him or her to witness. Euthanasia can sometimes be performed at home. Discuss your options with your veterinarian beforehand.


3. I've heard of the stages of grief, but what are they?

The grieving process is often illustrated by five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Typically, you will move through them progressively, but everyone grieves in different ways. You'll know you're beginning to heal when you're thinking more rationally and more often of the good times you shared with your pet rather than of the "what-ifs" and the guilt.


4. How can I cope with my feelings?

Having someone to share your feelings with will help you not have to keep them locked up inside. Don't deny how you feel or simply put on a brave face. You must acknowledge your feelings to work through them. Some of your thoughts may be misguided and as time passes you will be able to realize this. Do whatever works best for you as a means of emotional expression – go somewhere secluded and scream, cry, talk, write, paint, create a memorial, or find a new activity to fill the time you previously would've spent with your pet.


5. Should I just get over it?

It is common to hear the phrase "it was just a pet" when others find your emotions to be too extreme or too long-lasting. These people aren't aware that the death of a pet creates the same emotional response as the loss of a human friend or family member. Grieving is natural and thousands of pet owners can attest to that.


6. Who can I talk to?

Share your feelings with family or friends who have pets. Reminisce about your pet. Or, speak with your veterinarian or local humane association to identify pet loss counselors or support groups. Hospitals and churches also often have resources for grief support.


7. Should I do burial, cremation, or disposal?

This is another decision which should be based on your personal wishes. It can be easiest to have a clinic dispose of your pet's remains (often for a fee), but many prefer something more formal. Based on your living situation, a burial at home may be a good choice. However, both burial and cremation depend on your personal or religious values, finances and future plans. Your veterinarian or an online search will provide options available in your area.


8. What should I tell my children?

Be honest with your children and provide as much information as they seek in a way that matches their age and maturity level. Saying their pet was "put to sleep" is not advised, as they may begin to fear bedtime. Allow your children to grieve in their own ways and be open about your own emotions around them rather than teaching them to keep it all inside.


9. Will my other pets get depressed?

Your other pets may notice a change in the household. Based on their relationship, some may search for their companion, eat less and seem to be grieving. Giving your surviving pets extra love and attention during this time will be beneficial not only to them, but to you as well.


10. Should I get a new pet right away?

Generally, it is best to allow yourself time to work through your grief and loss before introducing a new pet into your home and life. A new pet is a unique individual, not a replacement. Try to avoid getting one that looks the same or naming it the same as your deceased pet, and don't expect it to behave exactly the same either. Getting a new pet too soon may lead to resentment or feelings of disloyalty because you still want your old pet back.

Burial Options for Your Beloved Pet

How you wish to handle your pet's remains after death is a personal choice dependent on many factors. Although cremation has become a popular option, other pet parents still prefer burial – either at home or in a nearby pet cemetery. Burial provides the bereaved with a sacred spot where they can go to visit with their deceased companion. It also allows the owner to feel that his or her pet is still present, still at home and not soon to be forgotten.

A burial site can be adorned with flowers, a personalized headstone or grave marker, or even a statue. Many pet parents will plant a flower or tree atop their pet's grave, or bury their pet beneath an existing and protective tree or shrub.

The Options

Home Burial

Home burial is not always an option. For pet owners who rent, move frequently, or live in an urban area, it may not make sense or it may be forbidden or illegal. Many cities prohibit home burials because of the potential hazard it may cause to public health.

If you do opt for home burial, ensure that your grave site is in an area that won’t be disturbed, is at least three feet deep, and that your pet's body is wrapped in or placed in something which is biodegradable.



Pet Cemetery Burial

Some pet owners prefer the formality of a cemetery burial – with or without an accompanying service. Others simply do not have the space of their own to bury a pet at home. Having your pet's remains buried in a pet cemetery comes with the assurance that the grave site will always be cared for and will never be disturbed. This can be reassuring for older pet parents or those who may move in the future and not be able to relocate their pet's remains.

Burial in a cemetery comes with many options for headstones and other decorative add-ons for your pet's grave or casket. Additionally, many companies exist that can pick up your pet's remains and help make arrangements for a complete funeral and memorial service if that is what you desire. Most states have several pet cemeteries. To locate the one nearest you, consult with your veterinarian or visit the International Association Of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories or the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance websites.

Crematory Options for Your Cherished Companion

How you wish to handle your pet's remains after death is a personal choice dependent on many factors. While some pet parents still prefer burial, cremation has become the most popular option. This may be because more people are renting or living in urban areas where home burial is often prohibited. Some believe that a body is merely a receptacle for a spirit and that more attention should be placed on honoring the memory of a pet than on its remains.

Whatever your beliefs may be, cremation offers the bereaved the option of having a pet's remains returned. They can be kept in a keepsake urn or spread somewhere sentimental. Some veterinarians perform crematory services or there are many crematories who cater just to pets. Since it has become so popular, there are several affordable options.



Private & Viewing

A private cremation ensures that your pet will be cremated alone and that the ashes you receive will be solely his or hers. Viewing cremations are sometimes possible, where you and your family can witness the process from a separate viewing room. This often provides the bereaved with the reassurance they their pet's remains were treated properly and with respect.

Semi-Private

In a semi-private cremation, several deceased pets are placed in the same chamber and divided by a partition. While the majority of the ashes you receive back should be those of your pet, some co-mingling of ashes does occur. Be sure to clarify which option you desire (and are paying for) as semi-private is sometimes labeled as private.

Communal

If having your pet's ashes returned to you is not something you desire, a communal cremation may be the best option. It results in the co-mingling of several deceased pets' ashes who are cremated together without any partitions separating the bodies.

Helping Pets in Grief

Although it isn’t known for sure if pets grieve the loss of an animal or human companion in the same way humans do, many do express their awareness that something has changed. Depending on how long your pets spent together and what their relationship was like, a death can create a significant void within the home that your surviving cat or dog may notice.

Symptoms of Grief

The ASPCA studied pet behavior after the loss of a pet companion during the nineties and found that 66 percent of dogs exhibited four or more behavioral changes. Some of these changes included:

• Loss of appetite
• More needy for attention
• More or less vocal than normal
• Restless during sleep
• Searching for deceased pet
• Wandering aimlessly



Allowing Your Pet to Say Goodbye

Many pet owners will attest to the searching behavior their surviving pets seem to exhibit after the death of a companion. When a friend suddenly leaves the house and doesn't return, he or she may anxiously wait for their return or search the house and yard hoping to find them. It has been suggested that allowing your pet to see the deceased pet's body can help him or her understand what has happened.

During this visit, your pet may: sniff, paw at, or try to "bury" the body; lay beside it; howl or whimper; invite play by bringing over a toy; or do nothing at all.

If letting your pet say goodbye in this way is not possible, consider clipping a lock of your deceased pet's hair for your surviving pet to smell. If your pet is showing any signs of grief, provide plenty of extra love and attention.

Is Sleeping With A Pet Beneficial Your Health?

A recent study by the Mayo Clinic's Center for Sleep Medicine in Arizona reported some people may benefit from sharing a bed with a pet. The study looked at 74 pet owners – 56 percent of whom allow their pet in the bedroom with them. Of those, 41 percent believe sleeping with their pet is beneficial to sleep.

A good night's sleep does more than leave you feeling well-rested. It plays an important role in overall immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and more.

Strengthen Your Bond by Sharing Your Bed

Dr. Ken Tudor, former Veterinary Medical Officer for the United States Department of Agriculture, believes the benefits of sharing a bed with a dog stem from our evolutionary partnership. Domestication of the wild dog undoubtedly included the animals joining "man at the camp fire and later snuggling closely with him for mutual warmth."



In addition to reporting better sleep, respondents also noted a greater sense of security. This could be from the simple reassuring presence of another warm body or because pets often double as protectors who will alert their owners to intruders. Dr. Tudor emphasizes that being in consistent proximity with an animal fosters bonding and a more intimate relationship.

"Some people find that sleeping with their animal actually helps them feel cozy," said Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the center. "One woman said her two small dogs warmed her bed. Another person felt her cat who was touching her during the night was comforting and soothing."

Results May Vary

Although the majority of pet-owning respondents reported sharing their bedroom with their pet, another 20 percent admitted the bed-hogging, snoring or moving around can be disruptive.

Interrupted sleep has been linked to preventing slow-wave sleep and a worse mood than non-interrupted sleepers upon waking. The Mayo Clinic advises patients who have sleep concerns to inquire about whether or not their sleep environment should be shared with a companion animal.

"I think from a sleep standpoint, multiple pets increase the risk of bad sleep," said Krahn.

Tips for Multiple Cat Households

Despite their independent ways, your cats are very sociable animals. Of course, they will never let you know that, which is why they quickly hang up the phone when they hear you coming. But the truth of the matter is, they can get lonely and bored if you don't spend enough time trying to get them to play with you.

To minimize the chance of your cat feeling isolated, you may want to consider getting another cat. And to minimize the chance of that cat getting lonely, you may want to get yet another cat...and so forth. Here are some tips you might find useful for multiple cat households.

Cats are very sociable

In general, the following combination of cats seem to work best: two kittens, a mature, neutered cat and kitten, or two mature neutered cats (either two females or a male and a female). The most volatile combination seems to be two uncastrated mature male cats.

Consider your current cat's personality before introducing a new cat. An active cat is more likely to accept a new kitten. A quieter, more reclusive cat might prefer a mature, adult cat as a companion.

If your cats exhibit personality conflicts, you can reduce the tension between family felines by making sure each cat has enough personal space and personal possessions to fulfill its needs.

Make sure you have at least one litter box on every floor and that they are easy to get to in an emergency. To avoid territory conflicts between cats, consider placing litter boxes in various locations throughout the house to avoid the exclusion of one cat from another cat's territory.

Be sure to keep plenty of clean, fresh water available for your cats at all times. Keeping bowls in multiple locations throughout the house might be a good idea.

Keep scratching posts and beds in several locations to accommodate all the cats in your household.

Allergy Testing in Pets

The goal of allergy testing is to identify the specific allergen(s) to which your pet has an allergy. Allergy testing is done either with a blood test (sometimes also called 'ELISA' or 'RAST testing') or with intradermal testing (sometimes also called 'skin testing'). Following the identification of the allergen(s), your pet usually begins a series of injections of a dilute solution of the allergens, with the idea of desensitizing his or her immune system to future allergen exposure. This is called immunotherapy. The exact schedule of injections is tailored to each individual case, but often begins as a once a week injection. The injections are usually carried out over the course of several months to years, and most patients require the injections for life.

Skin problems (particularly itching) and ear problems are two of the most common reasons why veterinarians see pets. Unlike humans who react to allergens with nasal symptoms, dogs react with skin conditions. These problems may range from poor coat texture or length, to itching and chewing, to hot spots and eventually self-mutilation. Allergies may also play a part in chronic ear infections. To make matters more difficult to diagnose and treat, thyroid disease may add to the problem as well.



Many times, severe skin itching and inflammation is caused by allergies to fleas, foods or environmental substances. If we can determine exactly what your pet is allergic to, it will allow us to provide more effective treatment. For pollen and dust allergies, it allows for the possibility of treatment with allergy shots (also called immunotherapy or hypo sensitization), which help to decrease the immune system's exaggerated response to these substances. Knowing exactly what the allergies are may also allow you to avoid things to which your pet is very sensitive to, such as fleas.

There are basically two types of allergy tests performed by veterinarians. The goal of allergy testing is to identify specific substances that are causing the allergic reaction, so that avoidance (if possible) and/or desensitization through allergy shots may be attempted.

As mentioned previously, allergy testing is done either by blood testing or by intradermal skin testing. The intradermal test involves clipping the fur from the side of the animal's chest and injecting very small amounts of pollen from trees and grasses, molds and insect extracts, into the superficial layers of the skin. Often, the test is administered under a light sedative/analgesic so that the pet feels no discomfort. If the animal is allergic, a hive-shaped mound forms at the site of one or more injections. This type of testing is more traditional, more involved and more expensive than blood testing, but has very few false positive reactions.

For the blood test, a small amount of blood is taken and sent to a special laboratory. Generally, the test results come back in about three weeks. This type of testing is newer and less expensive however, interpretation is more difficult. Although serum allergy testing can give meaningful results, intradermal skin testing is considered to be more accurate and is the preferred method of allergy testing.

If you have questions regarding your pet's skin problem or potential allergies, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian for more information.