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Pet Health

This page offers you some general information about diseases or problems that could affect your dog or cat. It is not meant to be a substitute for a visit to the vet but to make you more knowledgeable concerning these common issues and their vaccines. We take many precautions to prevent these diseases at our kennel, including attending various continuing education seminars with pet health and kennel management to stay up-to-date, and always using disinfectant when cleaning and frequent hand washing for staff.

This is a contagious infection that causes upper respiratory signs — mainly coughing — in dogs. Since it is airborne most kennels require protection from it (and hence the name “kennel cough”). The vaccine is given either subcutaneous or via the nose. It is usually administered yearly.

Canine Flu
There are two different strains of canine flu and we require vaccination coverage for both strains. Important things to note are:
• Some veterinarians offer one vaccine that covers both strains while other vets administer a different vaccine for each strain.
• Full vaccination requires an initial shot with a booster following soon thereafter. We cannot accept you dog until they have had both the initial shot and the booster.
• A fully vaccinated dog can still become infected by canine flu.

Canine flu is a relatively new, highly contagious, respiratory disease. Infected dogs may have typical ‘flu’ symptoms such as fever, cough, sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Most dogs recover in two or three weeks, but more severe and even fatal cases have occurred. Dogs have no natural immunity. Canine flu symptoms are similar but more severe than kennel cough which has been around for a long time. For more information, see

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease caused by a tiny virus. It is most often transmitted through contact with mucous and watery secretions discharged from the eyes and noses of infected dogs or through contact with the urine and fecal material of infected dogs. Since the virus may be borne by air currents and inanimate objects, it is nearly impossible to prevent exposure, especially to the more susceptible younger dogs and pups. It is the greatest single disease threat to the world’s dog population and even if a dog does not die from the disease, its health may be permanently impaired. A bout with canine distemper can leave a dog’s nervous system irreparably damaged, along with its sense of smell, hearing or sight; partial or total paralysis is also not uncommon. The safest protection is an annual vaccination.

Fleas not only make your pet miserable but can also contribute to blood loss anemia and can transmit tapeworms to your pet. The flea is a small, brown, wingless insect that uses specialized mouth parts to pierce the skin and siphon blood. When a flea bites your dog, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Many dogs become sensitized to this saliva and will scratch and chew madly until the skin is hairless, red, raw and weeping serum. Check your dog carefully for fleas or for signs of flea excrement (also called flea dirt), which looks like coarsely ground pepper. When moistened, flea dirt turns a reddish brown because it contains blood. An adult flea may also contain tapeworm eggs, which once ingested through grooming or biting, grow to maturity in your pet’s small intestine. You can control and prevent fleas through oral or topical systemic treatments that kill the larva and eggs or the adult fleas.

If your dog or cat spends more than a few minutes a day outdoors or is exposed to mosquitoes they may be at risk for heartworm disease. Adult heartworms can grow up to a foot long, usually in the arteries of the lungs and can cause heart damage, organ failure and if left untreated, death. Untreated dogs with heartworm will become lethargic, have no appetite and have difficulty breathing. Monthly topical medications are available and longer lasting preventatives come in doses that provides up to six months of continuous protection.

This virus is transmitted by oral ingestion of viral contaminated feces. Upon ingestion it infects local lymph nodes, quickly multiplies and then via the blood moves to the small intestine where signs of the disease begin in approximately 5-6 days. As it destroys the lining of the small intestine, fluid loss from both vomiting and diarrhea is dramatic and dehydration ensues. The onslaught of bacteria and toxins into the blood will ultimately cause death. Frequent modified live vaccines starting at 8 weeks of age and repeating every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is sixteen weeks old are the most effective in preventing parvo.

Rabies is an acute infectious disease of the central nervous system, which affects all warm-blooded animals, including humans. The virus is often present in the host’s saliva and is usually transmitted by the bite or lick of a rabid animal or sometimes by the respiratory route. In the early “anxiety” stages, a rabid animal may have a change of temperament and may become unusually friendly. The rabid animal may next enter a “furious” stage where it wanders about biting everything whether it moves or not. It then develops paralysis of the throat, which makes swallowing difficult. Saliva often drips from the animal’s mouth and may be whipped into a foam. Eventually all of the rabid animal’s muscles become paralyzed and it dies. Rabies shots are required for every pet in the state of Pennsylvania. Puppies and kittens need a booster shot after one year and then once again every three years after that.

Ringworm is caused by a microscopic fungal organism that results in skin disease to animals and humans. The fungus invades the growing hair shaft and feeds on the protein contained in the hair and skin. It is very contagious and is spread by direct contact with an infected animal or person, or with infected bedding and grooming items. Early symptoms on pets include dry, flaky skin, broken hair, and bald patches on ears, front legs and around the eyes. More advanced signs of the fungus include crusty lesions and infected areas that become red and sore. It is called ringworm because healing occurs from the center out, creating a ring effect. A vaccine exists for prevention and treatment includes a topical application.

Spaying or Neutering
Spaying is the surgical removal of the reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes) of the female animal. Neutering (castration) is the surgical removal of the reproductive glands (testes) of the male animal. The sterilization surgery is performed under a general anesthesia. Dogs should be spayed or neutered by 6 months of age while cats can have the procedure as young as 4 months. In addition to saving lives, spaying and neutering can also drastically improve your pet’s health and life expectancy. A spayed female is less likely to get uterine and ovarian cancer, and breast cancer, and the procedure eliminates mood swings, undesirable behaviors, and messy spotting associate with the heat cycle. Neutering a male reduces the risk of both prostate enlargement and prostate cancer. It also will make your pet more affectionate and less likely to roam, get in fights, or become lost.

When a hungry tick senses a warm object passing by, it attaches itself by clinging to clothing or fur and inserting pincher-like mouthparts into the skin and begins feeding. These mouthparts are locked in place and will only dislodge when the tick has completed the meal or you remove it. Some ticks can transmit serious diseases to dogs and even humans (Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease). Remove them with sterilized tweezers or a paper towel, grasping the tick’s head and body as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull slowly and patiently. Do not leave the head imbedded since it will mix its’ blood with your pet’s and probably cause an infection. If it’s still on the site, place a single drop of alcohol on it and repeat up to ten times until it dislodges. Flush the removed tick down the toilet.

On our web pages you will find answers to most questions you may have about our services. If you have any questions feel free to contact us by phone at 717.589.7387 or click here to email us. Grooming appointments and boarding reservations are only accepted by phone.

Tim & Lauren Ritzman
Bark of the Town

109 W. Sunbury Street Millerstown, PA 17062
Phone 717.589.7387