West Nile in Horses and Birds

West Nile virus is an insect-borne disease most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes. A recent sampling of mosquitos in Cedar Park tested positive for West Nile, and 958 mosquito pools in Texas have tested positive this year, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

In humans, West Nile can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord linings (meningitis), brain inflammation (encephalitis) or fever. Approximately 20 percent of those infected develop a fever, but only about 1 in 150 show more serious symptoms, according to the CDC.

Among pets and other animals, West Nile most seriously affects birds and horses, primarily in their brains and nervous systems. In horses, symptoms can include muscle tremors and twitching, hypersensitivity to touch or sound, walking in circles, falling or stumbling. If the disease progresses, more serious symptoms can develop, like seizures, trouble standing, or even death. Birds rarely display any symptoms, though the virus can make them more susceptible to other illnesses.

Fortunately, although dogs and cats can be infected with the West Nile virus from a mosquito bite, they are very resistant to developing West Nile disease. However, in an abundance of caution, if your dog or cat starts to show symptoms of a neurological problem — seizures, tremors, spasms, confusion, or paralysis, etc., Block House Creek encourages you to have one of our veterinarians evaluate your precious pet as soon as possible. Such symptoms most likely are the result of other diseases or issues that may need treatment.

No vaccine exists for West Nile, itself. However, two vaccines have shown to be effective in lowering a horse’s risk of developing encephalitis from West Nile. Initially, the horse is given two doses three to six weeks apart followed by a booster. Talk to one of our vets for recommendations about what might be most effective and appropriate for your animal.

Prevention by avoiding exposure to mosquitos is the first line of defense against equine encephalitis. Stable horses indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitos are most active. Using fans can be helpful in keeping mosquitos from landing on your horse. If your horse does become infected, quarantine or isolation is not necessary because West Nile cannot be transmitted from a horse to another animal or person.

As always, eliminate any sources of standing water where mosquitos breed, including troughs, pet water bowls, large puddles, birdbaths, etc. If you have any questions or concerns about possible West Nile in your horse or bird, we will be glad to help.

Keep Your Felines Free of Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), often called Cat Scratch Fever, is an infection caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae. Typically, infected cats transmit the bacteria to humans in a bite or scratch. The Bartonella bacteria are found in fleas and wind up in the cat’s mouth or claws when cats scratch or groom themselves.

Most CSD cases occur in the fall and winter and more often are seen in children under 15 years old. If an infected cat scratches or bites you or a member of your family, then you might notice symptoms including fever, swelling in the lymph nodes, and blisters or scabs at the wound sites. The swelling could last from weeks to months along with other symptoms such as poor appetite, headache, fever, and muscle soreness.

Although most people recover from CSD pretty quickly (a few weeks), more serious symptoms can develop in about 5-15% of those infected, with autoimmune-compromised people more at risk. Serious complications can involve the heart, brain, eyes and intestinal tract. Treatment may include antibiotics.

Cats carrying the Bartonella henselae bacteria, however, often show no CSD symptoms. However, if you notice symptoms like fever, swollen lymphs, vomiting, red eyes, and loss of appetite, Block House Creek suggests making a veterinary appointment.

Some studies suggest that, in the U.S., the blood of up to one-third of otherwise healthy cats may be infected. And recent study data suggests a possible connection between CSD and certain chronic inflammatory conditions in cats, such as inflammatory bowel disease, gingivitis, mouth sores, and certain urinary tract and eye problems.

To minimize the risk of your furry feline friend or family member becoming infected, we recommend the following:

1. Keep cats free of fleas. Ask one of our veterinarians about an appropriate flea control product.

2. Clean and trim your cat’s claws.

3. Avoid rough play with your cat, especially kittens, which could result in scratches or bites.

4. Prevent the cat from licking any open wound.

5. Make sure to wash any scratch or bite with soap and lots of warm water, and perhaps use an antiseptic/antimicrobial skin cleanser like Hibicleanse®.

The Unwanted “Kiss” of Canine Chagas

Chagas is a serious disease caused by a parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi or “T. cruzi.” Though chagas afflicts both humans and animals, dogs are especially susceptible to infection.

The t-cruzi parasite is transmitted by the bite and feces of “kissing bugs.” Also known as chinches or cone-nose bugs, they feed on blood during the night. The nickname “kissing bugs” comes from their preference to bite humans around the mouth or eyes. These bugs have migrated into Texas and other border states from Mexico, Central America and South America.

Adult kissing bugs are about ¾ to1¼ inches long, and most species have a very characteristic striped band with orange or red markings around the edge of the body.

According to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, chagas symptoms can be acute or chronic. Among the acute symptoms (mostly in younger dogs – under two years old) are lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes and seizures, as well as an increased heart rate. Chronic symptoms may include fatigue and weakness, fainting, and an elevated heart rate.

Some dogs may not show any symptoms of chagas. However, if present, the unnoticed parasitic infection may cause significant inflammation and heart damage over months or years. A heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy can develop and result in congestive heart failure. Sometimes, infected dogs may die suddenly without ever developing symptoms of heart disease.

A blood test for chagas is available, and a positive result indicates that the dog has been exposed. Unfortunately, no vaccines yet are available to prevent chagas and no medications have been found to treat chagas itself effectively, but researchers are working to develop new treatment approaches.

Make an appointment with us at Block House Creek if your cuddly canine shows any symptoms, especially if you think it came into contact with a kissing bug or an infected animal like a rat or mouse. In addition to a blood test, our veterinarians can provide medication to relieve symptoms, help dogs feel better and extend their life.

For now, the only real prevention is avoidance. The best thing you can do for your precious pup is prevent it from eating bugs or potentially infected animals, and keep it indoors after dark.

If you have any questions or concerns about possible chagas symptoms, speak with one of our veterinarians.

Learn About Leptospirosis – After the Flood, Dogs Risk Infection

The flooding from Hurricane Harvey put many pets at risk. As animal lovers, we empathize with concerned pet owners who go to often-heroic lengths to evacuate and rescue their animals from rushing and rising waters. But the dangers posed to pets from floodwaters do not end once our furry companions are back on dry land.

Floodwaters tend to infiltrate and lift up whatever is underneath. That includes anything in the soil — pesticides, fertilizer/feces, and bacteria. One of those bacteria (Leptospira) can cause a disease called Leptospirosis, or “lepto” for short.

The bacteria like wet and warm climates and stagnant or slow moving water. Commonly found wildlife in Texas, such as mice, rats, raccoons and opossums, can pass the bacterial organism in their urine. That bacteria can survive for extended periods in the soil or water. Animals, and particularly dogs, can become exposed through contact with that water and soil. That potential exposure increases where floodwaters linger and with the heightened risk of direct contact with the urine of infected critters fleeing the flooded areas.

Symptoms range from increased thirst and urination (for dogs that are carriers) to a severe infection with vomiting, diarrhea, fever and yellowing of the skin. Left untreated, lepto can lead to sometimes-fatal kidney and liver infection.

Cases of canine leptospirosis have been reported in the U.S. for more than 100 years, and its prevalence appears to be increasing. From 1983 to 1998, the rate increased by 1.2 cases/100,000 dogs annually. While veterinarians would expect to see increased leptospirosis in the coastal and low-lying areas flooded by Hurricane Harvey, cases are not uncommon in greater Austin’s urban areas.

For dogs, prevention through vaccination is the key. Here in the Hill Country and Central Texas, where we live with the risk of flash flooding and hurricanes, Block House Creek urges you to consider vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis, particularly if it has not been vaccinated previously. Dogs older than 12 weeks that live in an area close to wildlife — woods, farms, creeks, ponds, and lakes — probably should be vaccinated. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with one of our veterinarians.

Protecting Your Pet from Snakebites

Venomous snakebites can injure or kill a pet. A bite can cause permanent damage to the heart, liver, kidney, nervous system and joints, and destroy muscles and skin. You need to know the risks and what steps you can take to protect your animals.

Four venomous snakes in Central Texas pose a potential risk to your dog or cat: rattlesnake, cotton mouth/water moccasin, copperhead and coral. To put in perspective the risk of your pet getting bitten by a snake, venomous snakes bite approximately 150,000 dogs and cats annually in the U.S. In fact, dogs are 500 times more likely to suffer a venomous snakebite than to get rabies.

Rattlesnakes are fairly common here. In fact, nine different kinds of rattlesnakes live in Texas. They don’t always “rattle” before striking, and they tend to be most active at night while hunting rats, mice, rabbits and other small animals. And with a dwindling natural habitat from development and construction, rattlesnakes increasingly appear in suburban areas.

To reduce the risk of snakebite to your dog, keep it on a leash, preferably a short leash at night. Most bites occur when dogs stray from their owner. Also, maintain yards free of brush, wood and rock piles, tools, toys and long weeds and grass. Remove any food, fruit and birdseed from your yard that can attract rodents (snake prey). If you see a snake, slowly move you and your pet away to a distance at least the length of the snake.

To protect against severe and potentially fatal injury to your dog in the event of a rattlesnake bite, get it vaccinated by your veterinarian. The vaccine generates a protective antibody against snake venom. A vaccinated dog suffers less pain, with a reduced risk of permanent injury, as well as a faster recovery time.

Block House Creek Animal Hospital offers rattlesnake vaccines at a cost of less than $40 each for the first booster and the second booster (four weeks after the initial one). Follow-up boosters are given every six-months to one year. Anti-venom treatment also is available.

Watch for the following signs and symptoms to determine whether your dog may have suffered a snakebite:

– puncture wounds
– swelling
– severe pain
– breathing difficulty, and
– panting, drooling or restlessness.

A snakebite is always considered an emergency. Even a non-venomous bite can be dangerous. Minutes count. If you suspect a snakebite, get your pet to a veterinary hospital immediately. Don’t let your dog walk to the car or into the hospital. Keep yourself and your pet calm. If possible, call ahead to the hospital to get suggestions and advice prior to your arrival.

Animal Pain Awareness Month

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) has proclaimed September to be Animal Pain Awareness Month. All animals, like all people, suffer pain at various points in their lives. The IVAPM both educates and informs pet owners about the health and well-being of their pets in terms of managing acute or chronic pain.

Like humans, animals suffer pain from both injury and illness. Sources of acute pain (pain of shorter duration that usually resolves with healing the underlying cause) include being hit by a car, falling and breaking a bone or damaging an organ, surgical recovery, poisoning, animal and insect bites, and eye trauma, among many others.

Chronic pain usually lasts longer than six months and often results from an ongoing cause like arthritis, hip dysplasia, cancer and other diseases or unresolved conditions following injury.

Animals don’t exhibit pain symptoms the way humans do. Nature has wired them to hide or mask their pain lest predators might perceive any weakness, making a sick or injured pet more attractive prey. If we see our beloved companion moving more slowly, or being more submissive and less active, we might tend to think that perhaps our furry friend is just getting older and slowing down. But sometimes those could be signs of pain. So, how can you tell if your dog or cat is in pain? According to the IVAPM, here are some symptoms to look for:

– Decreased social interaction
– Anxious expression
– Submissive behavior
– Refusal to move
– Whimpering
– Howling
– Growling
– Guarding behavior
– Aggression, biting
– Decreased appetite
– Self-mutilation (chewing)
– Changes in posture


– Reduced activity
– Loss of appetite
– Quiet/loss of curiosity
– Changes in urinary/defecation habits
– Hiding
– Hissing or spitting
– Lack of agility/jumping
– Excessive licking/grooming
– Stiff posture/gait
– Guarding behavior
– Stops grooming/matted fur
– Tail flicking
– Weight loss

Many treatment options exist for the various causes of pain in animals such as pain medications, acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, therapeutic massage, and laser therapy. At Block House Creek Animal Hospital, our staff is trained to observe the symptoms of pain, diagnose its underlying causes, and discuss with you the best treatment options to ease your pet’s pain and restore your pet to good health and well-being as soon as possible.

Chip Your Pet.. It’s Safe and Easy!

How often do you stop at an intersection or walk into a coffee shop or supermarket and see the missing pet flyer with the photo of that cute face? As animal lovers and owners, we empathize. We also feel that twinge reminding us, “That could be MY pet.” But it doesn’t have to be.

Microchipping your pet is one of the easiest and most-effective ways to increase the odds that you and your pet, if it becomes lost or stolen, will be reunited.

What you need to KNOW —

What IS a microchip?
The chip itself is a very small electronic part enclosed in a bioglass cylinder no bigger than a grain of rice. The chip has no battery but is activated by a special scanner passed over the area. The scanner reads an ID number that displays on a screen. That number corresponds to the pet owner’s contact information in the chip manufacturer’s registration database.

What information is on the chip?

Only an identification number unique to your pet. The chip is not a tracking device (though such devices are available, such as Tractive® GPS products). Current microchip technology does not provide medical information on the chip itself, but some microchip registration databases allow you to store that information for quick reference.

How does it work?

When someone finds your pet and takes it to a shelter or veterinary clinic, one of the first things they do is scan the animal for a microchip. If the scanner finds the chip, and if your information in the microchip registry is current, they can quickly find you.

What is the procedure for inserting the chip?

Your veterinarian injects the chip under the skin with a hypodermic needle only slightly larger than those used for vaccines. The process involves no more discomfort than a normal injection, and no anesthesia is required. Chip implantation can be performed either during a routine veterinary office visit or sometimes while your pet is already under anesthesia for another procedure, like as neutering or spaying.

What you need to DO —

First, if your pet isn’t already microchipped, then make an appointment with your veterinarian for microchipping. Then make sure that your pet’s chip is immediately registered.

Second, verify that your previously microchipped pet’s registration information in the chip manufacturer’s database is up-to-date. You’ll need your pet’s microchip number for the registration update. Make sure that all information is correct, particularly your phone numbers and address.

Please be sure you register your pet’s microchip with the database that animal shelters and veterinarians will search: the one maintained by the manufacturer of your pet’s chip. AAHA’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool links to most microchip manufacturers’ databases, offering a quick search of any microchip made by these manufacturers. Some public microchip registries also are linked to the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. Remember, in case your pet gets lost, you won’t fret (as much) if you chipped your pet!

Maintaining Good Dental Health

Whenever you schedule your next dental appointment for a cleaning, schedule your pet’s dental exam, too. As with humans, dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health because dental problems can be a sign of other health problems, or cause them.

What is veterinary dentistry?

Veterinary dentistry covers the full range of a pet’s dental health needs, such as cleaning, repair, filing, adjustment, and extraction of your pet’s teeth, among other oral health needs.

Typically, your office visit begins with a veterinarian conducting an oral exam of your pet’s mouth. Sometimes x-rays may be needed to enable the veterinarian to “see“ the jaw and the tooth roots below the gum line because most dental disease occurs below the gum line. A thorough dental cleaning and evaluation requires anesthesia for your pet’s comfort. Dental cleaning is similar to the process used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleanings and includes scaling to remove plaque and tartar, as well as polishing.

Who should do it?
Veterinary dental procedures usually can and should be performed by your veterinarian. Depending on state regulations, veterinary technicians may be permitted to perform certain dental procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian.

When should teeth be checked?

Have your pet’s teeth checked at least annually by your veterinarian to maintain good dental health and to spot any early signs of a problem.

You should take your pet in a for a dental exam sooner if you observe any of the following problems:

• refusal to eat or poor appetite
• obvious pain or swelling in the mouth or jaw area
• bad breath
• teeth that are broken or loose
• unusual chewing, dropping food or drooling
• teeth covered in tartar or that are discolored, or
• bleeding from the mouth.

If your pet becomes irritable, this could signal dental problems. So, any changes in your pet’s behavior that are not otherwise explainable should be explored in a visit with your veterinarian. Animals in pain can feel threatened and want to protect a painful or vulnerable area, so be especially careful if you look into your pet’s mouth.

What are the most common dental problems?

Pets have many of the same dental problems that people do, though cavities are less common in pets than in people. Some common problems include:

• infections or abscesses
• periodontal disease
• broken teeth
• mouth cysts or tumors
• misalignment of the teeth and bite
• palate defects, or
• fractured jaw.

How can I support my pet’s dental health?
The most important and effective thing you can do to keep your pet’s teeth healthy between dental cleanings is regular brushing. That helps reduce the frequency for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Brush your pet’s teeth daily, if possible, or at least several times a week. Most dogs usually tolerate brushing well, but cats may require more patience and training.

Many pet products claim to improve dental health, but their effectiveness varies. Consult your veterinarian about recommending the most safe and effective dental products, healthy treats, or dental-supportive diets you’re considering for your pet.

Safe Nights for the Dog Days of Summer

During these hot and humid days, the only times caring dog owners typically can walk their canines is either in the early morning or late evening. And putting paws to still-warm pavement after a later sunset means navigating neighborhood streets with more joggers, bikers and other dog-walkers, as well as drivers — all taking advantage of a cooler outing before bedtime.

When trying to squeeze a walk in after dinner and before hitting the hay, you’re tempted to grab your pooch and just run out the door. But before you do, take just a moment to review a few simple rules that will help you and your pet stay safe and healthy on your evening jaunt.

1.    Illuminate – See and be seen!

Even if you know your walking route like the back of your hand, a crack in the pavement, forgotten child’s toy, broken glass, a sharp piece of fallen tree limb, or even snakes are just a few of the potential hazards that you may not anticipate. A simple light just bright enough to illuminate your path at least 7 to 10 feet ahead will avoid unnecessary surprises. And avoid high-lumen torches that could temporarily blind oncoming traffic or bikes.

To see, consider any of the following:

·      Your smartphone flashlight, either built-in or an app. While not ideal in terms of brightness, at least it is the light you most likely are carrying anyway, even if you forget a real flashlight.

·      A retractable dog-leash flashlight. This is the next easiest solution because it is only one item to remember for two of the four safety needs. And these are inexpensive. Just search online for “dog leash with flashlight” or run down to your local pet store.

·      A pet waste bag/flashlight (yes, they make those!) is another great inexpensive combo product, like the Top Paw LED Flashlight Dispenser 

·      A mini-flashlight. These palm-sized personal flashlights can easily fit in a pocket. And they are versatile, good for finding your house key at night when you forgot to leave the porch light on or need to locate your phone, wallet or jewelry accidently dropped in the car.

To be seen, here are a few suggestions:

·      LED collars and leashes. Just like it sounds.  These products include collars, leashes and small balls that hang from either. You can find them in pet stores priced anywhere from $5-15. The light modes include solid on, slow flash and fast flash.

·      Reflective collars and leashes. The advantage is no batteries are required and these are more likely to be worn during the day, too. The downside is that fluffy won’t be seen unless a light source hits the reflector, plus reflective light is not as bright as a flashlight.

2.    Hydrate

Your dog’s bodily fluid level can drop either from low fluid intake or fluid loss (through respiration, perspiration and urination). A walk in the heat combines both and can put your pet in danger quickly.  Fortunately, the solution is simple. Carry water — in anything. Don’t rely on the chance of finding a lawn sprinkler or gutter run-off or the garden hose of someone’s house when you start to notice symptoms. Just get in the habit of bringing water for both of you.

3.    Aerate

On some nights, temperatures may continue to hover in the 80’s for a while after sundown. Dogs keep themselves cool in three ways: panting, sweating and through their paws. You can assist by rubbing some of your dog water on your pouch’s paws (especially if the pavement is warm) and chest. For hairless and short-haired pets, you might even consider a cooling vest that uses evaporative cooling to hold water in fabric that ventilates the dog’s skin.

4.     Communicate

Use commands and leashes. As owner, you are the chief navigator here. Your four-legged companion relies on you for warnings of potential hazards. Keep in regular contact using voice commands as well as leash signals. Remember, all commands, whether audible or tactile, need to be practiced and consistent in order to work when you and your pet need them.

Follow these simple rules, and you’ll enjoy a healthy and happy stroll with your canine on a hot summer night.

Canine Comfort on Your Next Road Trip

Summer is the perfect time to hit the road with the family. For many, that includes the faithful four-legged family member. Any trip lasting more than a day or two usually requires some kind of trip planning that probably includes a travel checklist.

If the dog portion of your travel list includes only food, water and waste bags, you will not be adequately prepared.  You may realize after you already are “too far down the road” that you’ve neglected some essential preparations and failed to pack important items that ensure canine care and comfort.

1.    Pre-Travel Checkup

Your canine companion may look happy and healthy enough to hit the road at a moment’s notice. But that doesn’t mean it is ready for a long ride far from home. This is especially true if your plan involves going through different states and staying in hotels and perhaps kennels, knowing that your pup will be sticking its nose and paws into strange flora and fauna at every stop along your route, and snacking on whatever interesting tidbits it can sniff out at every rest stop.

To reduce the health risks, it is always a good idea to make sure that all vaccinations are up to date. Check with your vet in advance of your trip to make sure that your specific furry friend has everything needed for a safe and enjoyable trip. Make sure you allow enough time before you leave to get all necessary vaccines, including one to prevent Kennel Cough if your pet will be in proximity to other dogs. You will also want to refill any medication prescriptions or make sure you have enough to last the entire trip, allowing for possible delays.

If your dog typically experiences anxiety while riding in the car, ask your vet about medications or other strategies for keeping your pet calm. Many dogs suffer from extreme panic and anxiety during thunderstorms. If your plan calls for travel through the parts of the country where thunderstorms are likely, tell your vet and discuss the best ways to help your pup avoid unnecessary stress. For some dogs, a wearable solution like a ThunderShirt can help your pet with thunder, travel stress, fear or and other loud noises, as well as other canine anxieties.

2.    Travel Papers

While you are at the vet’s office, make sure you pick up copies of all vaccine records, including rabies certificates, and medical records documenting any health conditions like allergies, as well as prescriptions. If your pooch gets sick or injured and needs to get medical attention far from home, those records will prove extremely helpful to a veterinary health provider needing the correct information for making an appropriate diagnosis and prescribing the best medications for your dog.

3.    Getting Emergency Help

Technology has made rendering first aid and finding a nearby vet or animal clinic while traveling much easier. An app like Pet First Aid by American Red Cross (compatible with iPad and iPhone) can bring you peace of mind and put a number of great resources at your fingertips, including:

·      Simple step-by-step instructions guide you through everyday emergencies

·      Prepare and protect your pet’s health with advice on administering medication, behavioral help and how to act in a disaster situation.

·      Early warning sign checker for preventive care.

·      Programmable veterinary contact number to be available when needed throughout the app.

·      First aid steps for over 25 common pet situations through a combination of text, video and images, in addition to identifying common toxic substances.

·      Locate your nearest emergency vet hospital or pet-friendly hotels.

·      Respond to pet emergencies with “how to” videos for the common and stressful emergency situations inclusive of size specific CPR techniques.

4.    Exercise and Play

Boredom and lack of exercise can be a problem on long trips. Frequent rest stops are essential to allow your canine to relieve itself and get a quick stretch. But your pet will lick you with gratitude if you can supplement relief stops with some real exercise and play.

While your family may be looking forward to an amusement park visit, your canine may be dreaming about a new dog park. One great solution is another app, such as Dog Park Finder Plus (iPad and iPhone), which includes the following features:

·      Get Directions to park

·      View a list of nearest dog parks

·      View a map of nearest dog parks

·      Results updates map scrolls

·      Search for parks (both list and map views).

·      View detailed website park information in the app

·      Read and write reviews in the app.

5.    Pads and Wipes

Even with frequent rest stops, accidents will happen. Pee pads are a great way to catch pet waste and vomit and can easily be disposed at the nearest rest or meal stop. Wet wipes that are pet-friendly can be crucial to keeping paws clean and free of bacteria and hazardous substances, as well as anything that gets spilled on your canine. Keep plenty of both in the car and a travel bag.

With these five strategies, you will create great memories for you and your dog, and build trust and excitement about your next relaxing vacation together.