Zoonosis and People

By Dr. Vanessa Vandersande

Did you just eat your sandwich after playing with your puppy? Did you remember to wash your hands before eating? If so, you might have just gotten a little more fun then you bargained for! Zoonosis is any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from animals to humans. One commonly seen zoonosis are roundworms which are often associated with young animals.

Roundworms are a common infestation of young animals such as puppies and kittens, though any dog or cat can be a carrier with little to no clinical signs. It is thought that 30% to 50% of dogs and cats carry gastrointestinal (GI) parasites and that 1 to 3 million people in the U.S. have infections from the same parasites carried by pets. Roundworms are a big reason that veterinarians, as well as the CDC, recommend monthly parasite control for pets.

Infection in the dog and cat can occur in several ways:

  • During embryonic development when an infected mother dog is pregnant (most puppies and kittens are infected this way during gestation).
  • Consuming infective worm eggs from soil in the environment. This happens when the pet has laid on soil with old stool in it and then grooms themselves.
  • Nursing from an infected mother dog.
  • Consuming a prey animal (usually a rodent) that is carrying developing worms.

Animals with roundworms are one thing but the science gets really interesting when a human accidentally ingests an infective egg. Remember the handwashing you missed? Well the puppy had some infective dirt on it which ended up on your hand. The egg passed onto your sandwich and you ingested a roundworm egg on that last bite. Yuck!

Now the egg will start moving through your system, possibly ending up in the lung, brain or eye- a process known as visceral larval migrans. While treatable, damage from the migration can be permanent. I knew of one young child who was affected and lost vision in one eye. That is why every one of my clients always gets the zoonosis talk and a good discussion about monthly preventive at their annual exam. The choice is always in the hands of the pet owner but when children are concerned, my motto is “Not on my watch!”

Cancer in our Pets

By Dr. Vanessa Vandersande

Cancer is among our generation’s most terrible types of disease. I dearly look forward to advancements that wipe out this plague but many misconceptions currently exist. I often hear from clients, “Well if it is cancer, we aren’t going to do chemotherapy or anything extreme.” I understand this sentiment. Human cancer treatment can be frightening, grueling, and unbearably painful. However, treatment for cancer in animals can be very different.

Our goal in human medicine is to save the person’s life, no matter what. In pets, our goal can be different if that is the path we choose. For my animals, that has been my choice-namely to bring as much comfort as I can for as long as I can. I believe many of my clients have the same goal.

The best kind of cancer is the kind that can be completely removed, such as a single skin tumor. It is a wonderful thing to cure cancer with a single surgery.

The second situation is a malignant mass that can be removed but may have spread into the bloodstream. My senior dog had such a cancer. It was removed and she received a kind of chemotherapy to eradicate it from her system. The chemotherapy actually made her feel good-she became more active during treatment and has been cancer free for two years. You can find her photo on our website, enjoying her life.

A third situation would be a cancer that can’t be completely removed may be widespread in the body. Unfortunately, Dr Land’s cat suffers from this. He has been on and off chemotherapy drugs for a year and a half with the goal of keeping him comfortable and he is doing well.

The good news is that we have many drugs that can support our pets and make sure they have mostly good days until the end. Many options exist and as veterinarians, it is our job to support you and your pet through the entire journey. I had one beloved cat I lost to cancer who made me the vet I am today. You will find her pictures on our website too. Her memory will last with me forever. We achieved our goal with her by bringing as much comfort to her as possible for as long as possible. If you have any questions about your pet and cancer please contact us at Copper Hill Animal Clinic, we can help.

In-Home Euthanasia

By Vanessa Vandersande, DVM

The decision to euthanize a loved pet is extremely challenging for everyone. It is something that is also very personal and as your pet’s caregiver, you know your pet best. At Copper Hill Animal Clinic we will help you in assessing your pet’s quality of life and aid you in making an educated and supportive decision.

Euthanasia can be a powerful experience that provides relief from pain, emotional suffering, and chronic debility. In many cases, euthanasia can be the kindest, most humane decision for animals at the end of their lives, or for animals suffering from severe illness or injury at any age.

The overwhelming majority of companion animals’ lives end with euthanasia in a veterinarian’s office. While some pets are quite relaxed in a hospital setting, most are stressed. Many of these animals have mobility impairment that makes travel difficult or even painful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the euthanasia experience could be as stress-free as possible for pets and as meaningful as possible for their caregivers?

In-home euthanasia can provide a relaxed and personalized experience for animals & families during their final moments together. It is Dr. Vandersande’s belief that we can humanely end an animal’s life without pain, emotional distress or fear, with the goal to make the final goodbye as calm and compassionate as possible. Euthanasia should be a gentle time – un-rushed, peaceful and respectful. The life of an animal is honored when it ends with dignity.

Please call us to discuss if you are considering in-home euthanasia. We are here to help you know when the time is right. You may even request a home visit to help evaluate your pet’s comfort level and see if there are modifications that can be made that will make a difference.

Consider the following questions as markers for your pet’s enjoyment of life. You, as the person who knows your pet best, will be able to answer these better than anyone.

Is your pet enjoying his/her food?

Is your pet able to go to the bathroom where appropriate?

Is he or she still enjoying the company of their people?

Is he or she relatively free from pain?

Is he or she having more good days than bad days?

Fleas Underfoot?

Fleas Underfoot?

Posted by Dr. Vanessa Vandersande

As a veterinarian, pattern recognition is important. An owner presenting a young, large breed dog that has suddenly started limping on a rear leg often has a knee ligament rupture. A bearded dragon who isn’t moving around much may have a broken bone from calcium deficiency. Recognizing these patterns makes my job a little easier, although I always endeavor to keep an open mind. But as my technician explained the presentation for my next case, I was confronted with a pattern I didn’t recognize at all.

“She says her cats spend all their time on the furniture. They avoid the floor entirely.”  

“Well that’s odd,” I responded, and hurried into the room to unravel this new mystery.

Mrs. Sandy quickly explained the problem. Boots and Monkey used to behave quite normally, but in the past week they seemed to venture to the floor only for litter box and food. Then they would jump back up on top of the washer, walk along the windowsill and settle on the back of the couch. It had taken her a few days to realize what was going on, but once she had, Mrs. Sandy was perplexed.

“Is your dog behaving oddly as well,” I asked?

“Maxie is mostly outside lately because of the beautiful weather we’ve been having, but when she comes in to eat, I don’t notice anything different.”

Perplexed, I started examining Monkey while I thought about the situation. It had to be a problem that was affecting both cats. They were both quite young, so arthritis seemed unlikely and didn’t really fit with the presentation. As I completed my exam, I asked my standard questions about diet, and then monthly preventative.

“Are you using anything to control fleas?”  

“Oh no, “said Mrs. Sandy. “We never get fleas.  I keep a clean house. Besides, we don’t have any carpeting.”  

A light bulb clicked on and I pulled my flea comb out of my pocket and combed vigorously around the base of Monkeys tail. I turned to Mrs. Sandy, who was aghast as I displayed a fine mesh of cat hair crusted with jumping fleas and flea dirt.

We are lucky in Santa Clarita that we are not troubled with fleas nearly as frequently as other geographical locations. When we do get flea problems however, they are fierce! Many people assume good housekeeping or indoor-only pets will prevent the flea situation and that certainly is helpful. But it only takes one female flea hitching a ride on a pant leg or the dog to cause an enormous problem.

The lucky thing is that the flea life cycle also provides us with a perfect way to get rid of an infestation. The flea life cycle is ninety days long. It starts with the female laying eggs, which fall off the pet and sprinkle over the floor. As the eggs hatch, baby fleas jump back onto the pet and start feeding. Many excellent flea products are available and if the flea jumps back onto a treated pet that flea will be killed in hours, sometimes in minutes depending on the product used. Now we have to go after the eggs and we can kill them with a tool almost everyone has; the vacuum cleaner! A flea egg will hatch out in response to heat and carbon dioxide. People and animals emit heat and carbon dioxide, but fortunately vacuum cleaners do too. Studies have shown that 95% of fleas that are sucked up in the vacuum are killed immediately. It’s easy to see how vacuuming the entire floor every day for several days in a row would decimate the flea population very quickly.

Many flea products are available out there. Only your veterinarian can assess all of your pets needs and help you make the best and safest choice. Some medications sold over the counter last less than a week, which is not enough to stop the flea life cycle. Other products can cause serious side effects in certain species. Your veterinarian may partner with certain drug companies to offer a guarantee that if the product isn’t effective they will send a flea eradication company to your home to complete the job. Proper flea control can mean a better life for you and your pet!

Copper Hill Animal Clinic is located at 27935 Seco Canyon Road in the CVS shopping center. Please call (661) 296-8848 to schedule an appointment.