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Bottom Line on Heartworm and Flea Prevention Products


By Rodger Barr DVM

Heartworm preventative medication has evolved over the years to be classified as Parasite Control Medication due to the fact that it manages to prevent not only heartworm disease, but also intestinal parasites. The very popular monthly preventative has effectively replaced the daily preventatives of old. It’s always wise to do a preliminary heartworm test to confirm the absence of heartworm infestation prior to initiating the monthly preventative measure. The specific preventative will be discussed along with their primary benefits and disadvantages. Lastly, dogs that have had a history of parasite exposure in kennel situations such as Greyhounds benefit from a year around parasite management program.

Heartgard Plus
- A monthly preventative, comes in both tablet and chewable
- Effective against Heartworm, Roundworms, Hookworms
- Very safe
- To be initiated one month following the first potential heartworm exposure, or year around if intestinal parasite control is a major concern.

- A monthly preventative, comes in chewable
- Effective against Heartworm, Roundworm. Hookworms and Whipworms.
- Very safe
- To be initiated one month following the first potential heartworm exposure or year round if intestinal parasite control is a major concern.
- Highly recommended option due to whipworm control

- A monthly preventative, comes in chewable
- Effective against Heartworm, Roundworm, Hookworm, Whipworms and Fleas.
- Flea prevention is in the form of the product Program, which specifically works to break the flea life cycle but does not kill the adult flea.
- Combines Interceptor and Program.
- Very safe.
- To be initiated one month following the first potential heartworm exposure, but if flea management along with intestinal parasite control is paramount than year round should be considered
- Highly recommended option because of whipworm control.

- Topically applied heartworm, flea, tick, roundworm management and ear mites.
- History of being a jack of all trades and master of none.
- History of adverse reactions in Greyhounds.
- Not recommended for Greyhounds.

Program - Oral monthly product for flea control.
- Works by breaking the flea life cycle, prevents the eggs from hatching. Does not kill adult fleas. Year around use is recommended if you have a chronic flea problem or frequent new dogs arriving.

- Topical monthly adult flea control.
- Kills adult fleas, also useful for killing fleas in environment that treated animals frequent
- Applied topically, does not wash off with bathing.
- Occasionally can cause local irritation at administration site. Year around use recommended if the likelihood of infected animals is high.

Worms that infect pets…can infect people, too.

Ask how you can protect your family and pets!

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Bottom Line on Epiosioplasty

Reestablishing the Bottom Line with Episioplasty

By Rodger Barr DVM

Episioplasty is the surgical procedure designed to correct the painful chronic skin condition known as perivulvar dermatitis, vulvar fold dermatitis, or crotch rot. This condition is difficult to resolve conservatively, and if successful, requires a lifetime of management.

My goal is to educate owners of retired female racing Greyhound who have perivulvar dermatitis. I hope to provide the knowledge and understanding necessary to help make the decision as to whether to proceed with surgery or not. Just as with hock fractures, some require surgery and some do not. The goal is to resolve the problem satisfactorily while at the same time sparing the patient any unnecessary pain or suffering.

If I had had the foresight to photograph past cases of this condition I would not have to struggle with an illustration through words. Perivulvar dermatitis is the presence of deep folds surrounding the vulva resulting in a moist dermatitis, very red and inflamed and most commonly characterized by excessive licking. Other breeds develop this condition due to obesity, not so the greyhound. Female Greyhounds are given testosterone to prevent cycling during training and racing, this produces an underdeveloped juvenile vulva that is so small it is recessed, making the structure prone to excessive moisture and inflammation.

If you have a female who licks herself constantly, what should you do? Take her to a Veterinarian who is well versed in Greyhound issues. If you want to explore the region yourself, do so with caution. This area can be very painful. Even though we know your beloved Greyhound adores you, be forewarned that pain can result in an unexpected and uncharacteristic regrettable reaction. A muzzle would be wise in this situation, don’t hesitate to use it. Just glancing at the area rarely reveals the problem; you must gently pry the vulva out of its recessed location and observe the surrounding tissue. The area can be examined with you dog standing or while on her side, with someone restraining her. Move slowly, if it’s too painful, stop. If you get a good look, and the tissue is fire engine red with ulcerations and possibly smelly, it’s likely that surgery is the correct choice. If the area is inflamed but not ulcerated, you may have a chance at success with the conservative approach. The more recessed the vulva, the more likely surgery will be necessary. If a concomitant condition of hypoestrogen incontinence exists, this must also be managed in order to obtain optimum results.

When treating this problem medically, the first step is to break the vicious cycle of inflammation, irritation and subsequent licking, with the use of a Bitenot collar or a similar device. Greyhounds don’t tolerate Elizabethan collars as well even though the end result can be the same. The Bitenot collar prevents access to areas on the animal’s trunk only, not limbs. It is like a neck brace and it prevents the neck flexibility necessary to lick the perivulvar region. With the Bitenot in place the next goal is to reduce inflammation. There are many options here, but in my experience the use of a product called Neo-Predef Powder works quite well. This product comes in a puffer bottle allowing application without actually touching the sensitive tissue. Neo-Predef has an anti-inflammatory, an antibiotic, and a local anesthetic in it, and by its very nature as a powder tends to dry the area as well. Do not allow licking of this product, it will cause excessive drinking and prevent the area from healing. Prior to applying the topical product it usually helps to gently cleanse the area with either hydrogen peroxide (3%) or warm water with a disinfectant soap, as long as it is rinsed well. Systemic antibiotics can help in severe cases. If you should initially try the conservative approach and decide this is just not for you, surgery can still be performed, freeing you from lifetime management of this condition. Don’t forget if you are lucky enough to resolve this problem with twice daily cleansing and medicating, the problem will most certainly return with a vengeance if you stop treatment all together. Some animals require more treatment than others, but suffice it to say that a minimum of two to three treatments per week will be necessary to maintain your good results, some more often, some less.

If your pet is one who has a severe case or you don’t choose to manage a chronic problem for the life of your Greyhound, then surgery is your best option. Episioplasty is the removal of an elliptical shaped portion of skin above the diseased vulva, making certain to remove as much diseased skin as possible, and the subsequent reconnecting of the new skin edges with sutures or surgical staples. This procedure serves to lift the recessed vulva out of its pocket of tissue and out into the fresh air where moisture no longer accumulates. Post-operatively one must prevent self-mutilation with the aforementioned neck devices, but the recovery is usually uneventful. The results are often excellent, and this procedure tends to resolve the problem completely and forever.

The decision to do surgery should depend on the actual condition and what it will take to resolve it. I know many of you don’t fear the actual surgery. Some are concerned about post-surgical pain, but most FEAR anesthesia. If done properly, Anesthesia is very safe. First and foremost choose your Veterinarian wisely; what precautions does he or she take, do they do pre-surgical screens, and what type of pain management do they prescribe? Do they manage heat loss during surgery? Do they ALWAYS use intravenous fluids except for the very quick lacerations etc. Anesthesia on healthy dogs is nothing to fear as long as all precautions are taken and modern anesthetic agents are being used.

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Ectoparasite Management (fleas, ticks, etc,)


Flea and Tick Prevention


Minnesota is Heaven for Ticks!

There are three main species of ticks present in Minnesota—Dermacentor (American dog tick), Ixodes (deer tick or blacklegged tick), and Rhipicephalus (brown dog tick). They are commonly found in grassy areas, forests, and trails. A dog can also pick up ticks in a wooded back yard or during a walk in the park. Any dog can be affected— even long hair does not provide protection. Therefore, during spring, summer, and fall months, all dogs should be on an adequate tick preventive product.

Ticks are more than just a nuisance for you and your dog. More importantly to your dog's health, ticks frequently spread diseases. All three kinds of ticks can carry disease, but the biggest culprit in our area is the deer tick. These ticks are so tiny that they can attach to your dog and spread infection before they are even noticed. The two most common tick-borne diseases in the Twin Cities are Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. These diseases can cause some severe illnesses and, in the case of Lyme disease, can be the cause of kidney failure and death. Fortunately, we can screen for each of these diseases and several more with our 4DX Plus Heartworm-tick-borne disease panel. We recommend this test yearly to discover infection early in the disease process before there is long-term illness.

There are many flea and tick products available to the consumer—some are highly recommended and others leave much to be desired. At Foley Blvd Animal Hospital, we do not recommend using any over-the-counter flea and tick treatments. They can be ineffective at best and toxic or harmful to some pets at worst. Our veterinarians will have a specific recommendation of a product that can kill the ticks before they pass on disease.

Please check your dog for ticks daily. You can do this by feeling all over your dog for small lumps on its skin. The ticks can be variably-sized once they begin to feed. Once you determine that the lump you have found is a tick, you can remove it by grasping the base of the head with a tweezers and pulling straight out. For more information about removing ticks, please visit


Fleas are found in almost all parts of the country including here in Minnesota. Signs of fleas include intense itching with red skin and hair loss. Adult fleas can sometimes be seen crawling on the animal. Often the only external sign of the fleas is flea dirt on the coat—more apparent in light-colored animals than on those with dark coats. Flea dirt (actually digested blood) can be distinguished from regular dirt by placing a small piece on a while background and adding water. Flea dirt will begin to dissolve back into a reddish color.

No one wants to deal with fleas in their house, but fortunately there are now many excellent treatment options on the market. Treatment of active flea infestation can be accomplished with several types of products and environmental control. Please keep in mind that all animals in the house need to be treated, or treatment will be ineffective. Our current recommendations include oral medications and topical products, which can be used together to improve results. Our veterinarians will have specific recommendations for your situation.

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Vaccinations For Your Dogs and Cats

Vaccinations are a critical part of your pet's preventive medicine care. They provide protection against a disease before your pet even encounters it. The vaccines work by exposing the body to a weakened version of the infection so the animal's immune system can make antibodies against that disease. Booster vaccinations are then needed throughout the pet's life to help remind its immune system to continue to make those antibodies.

Although puppies and kittens require the most frequent vaccinations, adult animals also need to be up to date to ensure proper health. A wellness examination is always performed in conjunction with administration of vaccinations. This serves to verify the health of the individual animal to determine if there is any reason a vaccination should be postponed

Please keep in mind that vaccinations are not a guarantee against disease. Often they can help an animal fight off infection completely, but sometimes they work by helping the pet have a milder form of the disease. In either case, your pet benefits from the vaccination.

Puppy Vaccinations

Puppies are given some protection against disease from their mother. Although these maternal antibodies help prevent infection in young puppies, they do interfere with the effectiveness of the puppy vaccinations. In addition, as the puppies get older, they lose those maternal antibodies, and with them, the ability to fight those diseases, leaving them vulnerable. It is incredibly important for puppies to receive repeated vaccinations against these sometimes-deadly diseases.

We recommend starting vaccination at 6-8 weeks of age depending on the individual puppy. We start by vaccinating for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza virus (DHPP). Boostering vaccinations is important –every 3-4 weeks until the animal is 16 weeks of age or older. That way they are still protected even as their maternal antibodies wane. After 16 weeks of age the puppy can receive its last puppy shots and its first rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Lyme disease can be started at nine weeks of age for a puppy and requires a booster 2-4 weeks later. We may choose to give more than one vaccination at a time or we may postpone some vaccinations based on the age and size of your puppy.

Kitten Vaccinations

Kittens receive similar maternal antibodies from their mother, but their vaccination schedule varies a bit from that of puppies. Kittens should receive their first vaccination for distemper (aka panleukopenia), rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus (DRC) at 6-8 weeks of age. They then require boosters every 3-4 weeks until they are twelve weeks old, at which age they can receive their rabies vaccination. Kittens which test negative for feline leukemia virus should be vaccinated for that fatal disease starting at nine weeks of age, as well.

Adult Dog Vaccinations

Each dog should have a wellness exam performed yearly. At that point it can be determined which vaccinations the dog should receive. Typically an adult dog will receive a DHPP yearly and a rabies vaccination every two years. Rabies vaccination is required by law. Here in Minnesota, we recommend Lyme disease vaccination for all dogs yearly, starting as a puppy. Some dogs may also need vaccinations for Leptospirosis and Bordetella, depending on their expected exposure to these diseases. Protection against Leptospirosis is essential for hunting dogs and other dogs which will be exposed to areas of wildlife. Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine is important for dogs which will be exposed to other dogs, whether at kennels, dog parks, or groomers.

Adult Cat Vaccinations

All cats, even strictly indoor adult cats should remain current on vaccinations. DRC vaccinations are administered yearly to protect against distemper, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus. Rabies vaccination in cats should be yearly and is required by law. Adult cats which spend time outdoors should also receive vaccination against feline leukemia virus. Your veterinarian will let you know if it is recommended to vaccinate your cat against other diseases such as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).

Adverse Reactions

Unfortunately, vaccinations can occasionally cause some adverse reactions. These may be mild, such as a bit of soreness for a few hours, or severe, including facial swelling, vomiting, or sometimes shock. These reactions are rare and can be treated in almost all patients. If you feel that your pet is experiencing an adverse reaction to a vaccination it received recently, please call our office immediately.

At Foley Blvd Animal Hospital, we believe whole-heartedly in pet wellness care, of which vaccinations are an important part. By keeping your pet current on vaccinations, you are taking a big step in ensuring your companion's health.

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