What are Heartworms? How does my pet get them?

Heartworm Disease

BY Jeff Speicher, DVM

There were over 1 million dogs in the US diagnosed with heartworm disease, according to the American Heartworm Society.  Most of these were in the South East United States.  The sad part about this statistic is that Heartworm Disease is preventable!

What are Heartworms? How does my pet get them?

Heartworms are a parasite that primarily live in the heart and pulmonary arteries. They are transmitted to our pets by mosquitoes.  That puts our dogs and cats here in the South East at risk year round. When a mosquito bites a dog that is infected with heartworm, it can pick up larval forms of heartworms. These undergo one phase of their lifecycle in the mosquito.  When the mosquito bites another dog or cat, heartworm can be transmitted.

How do I know if my dog has heartworm disease?

Dogs with heartworm disease can have signs that range from mild exercise intolerance to signs of heart failure.  Dogs with heartworm often have a cough.  Dogs with mild or early disease may not show any signs.  Cats can have mild signs from an occasional cough or vomiting to severe signs.  Heartworm can be fatal to both dogs and cats.  

We can test dogs and cats for heartworm disease with a blood test.  Dogs should also be tested before being put on preventatives.

What do we do if my pet has heartworm disease?

The good news is that dogs can be treated for heartworms.  Here at Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital, we follow the American Heartworm Society guidelines for treatment to ensure the best results for our patients.  Even after treatment, animals can have lasting damage to their heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

The best thing for our furry family members is to prevent heartworm disease before it happens!

There are a number of different heartworm treatments on the market at this time, ranging from injectable medications to topical medications.  Some heartworm medications include prevention for intestinal parasites, and fleas and ticks.

Here at Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital, we tailor our preventions to our patients and their parents’ needs.  We offer ProHeart12, an injectable medication that provides year long protection in a single dose in dogs.  Or if you prefer a chewable tablet we offer Simparica Trio for dogs, which protects against heartworm and controls fleas and ticks in one monthly tablet.  For cats we have Revolution Plus, which provides flea, tick and intestinal parasite control along with heartworm prevention. Visit us and we can go over which is the best option for you and your four-legged friends.

Let’s work together to keep our Family safe!

April 2021Dangers of Chocolate



Dangers of Chocolate

As Easter approaches, we all get a little excited to run to our baskets and find a nice big chocolate bunny, but we have to be careful that our four legged friends don’t partake in this sweet treat.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs, and the higher the chocolate content in the confection the more toxic.  

First, a little history about how chocolate is made. Chocolate comes from cacao trees.  The fruit of the cacao tree, called a cacao pod, is sweet but the seeds are bitter. The seeds are discarded in the natural setting, allowing new trees to grow. The seeds are also packed with theobromine and caffeine.  Chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder are all produced from the cacao seeds.  Unsweetened (baking) chocolate is very high (50-60%) in chocolate content, followed by dark chocolate (35%) and milk chocolate (10%).

Why do we need to be so careful with chocolate around our pets? Both caffeine and theobromine produce similar effects, but the theobromine effects last much longer than the caffeine’s. The more chocolate there is in a treat, the more theobromine there is. This makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, then milk chocolate, then last by chocolate flavored cakes or cookies.

THE causes:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms
  • Death in severe cases

Toxic doses of theobromine are 9 mg per pound of the dog’s weight for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound for severe signs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg per ounce of theobromine, semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce. White chocolate has virtually no theobromine and is only a problem because of its fat content. 

Those calculations seem complex and they certainly can be. What it boils down to is that your veterinarian will need to know the type of chocolate and how many ounces were most likely consumed. If it is not clear how much chocolate was actually consumed, the largest possible amount should be determined based on how much of the dessert is missing.It takes nearly four days for the effects of chocolate to work its way out of a dog’s system. If the chocolate was only just eaten, it is possible to induce vomiting; otherwise, hospitalization and support are needed. 

If you think your pet has ingested chocolate of any amount be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately. And make sure to keep those Easter goodies out of reach!

Sudden high fat meals can cause canine pancreatitis.

Temping to let our four legged family take part in our favorite holiday past time...


"With the holidays coming up, it is always temping to let our four legged family take part in our favorite holiday past time: Eating!"

Unfortunately, holiday classics are not always the best for our dogs and cats. Meals that contain a lot more fat than they are used to can lead to a problem called Pancreatitis.

Normally, the pancreas nestles cozily just under the stomach and along the small intestine. As a glandular organ, the pancreas is all about secretion and it has two main jobs: the first job is to secrete digestive enzymes to help us break down the nutrients we eat, the second job is to secrete insulin and glucagon (to regulate how we use the nutrients we eat). It’s the first job (the digestive enzyme part) that concerns us in pancreatitis.

In pancreatitis, inflammation disrupts the normal integrity of the pancreas. Digestive enzymes are normally stored safely as inactive forms within pancreatic granules so that they are harmless. In pancreatitis they are prematurely activated and released internally which can cause a severe inflammatory response.  If the pancreas is affected so as to disrupt its ability to produce insulin, and diabetes can result; this can be either temporary or permanent.

Signs of pancreatitis include not eating, vomiting, diarrhea, and a painful abdomen. Diagnosis often includes blood work, radiographs, and possibly other imaging.

We often don’t find the cause of pancreatitis, but a sudden high fat meal is the classic cause of canine pancreatitis. The sudden stimulation to release enzymes to digest fat seems to be involved.

Treatment of pancreatitis usually involves hospitalization of the pet, with management of the nausea and discomfort they have, along with keeping them adequately hydrated.

Given these possible problems, we recommend giving our furry friends treats and foods made for them, and keeping our holiday recipes for the humans.

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Summer Time. The Heat Is On!

Summer Time. The Heat Is On!

By Dr. Julia Berger, DVM

Practice the “5 second rule” when walking outside with your dog. If you cannot keep the back of your hand on the asphalt or cement for at least 5 seconds, then it is too hot for your dog’s paws!

The Heat is On

We all love the warm summertime in central Florida but sometimes the heat can be a bit much for our furry friends. It’s important that we make sure our pets are staying plenty hydrated and aren’t spending too much time in the sun during the next several months. Here are some tips to keep in mind over the summer for our cats and dogs:

  1. Provide plenty of fresh, clean water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
  2. Watch for signs of overheating; like excessive panting, difficulty breathing, drooling, mild weakness, and increased heart rate. If you notice that your pet has any of these symptoms, please seek a veterinarian immediately.
  3. Never leave your pet in a hot car! It is illegal in several states and can be fatal.
  4. Don’t shave your dog. Their coat layers help cool them down and prevent them from getting sunburned.
  5. Practice the “5 second rule” when walking outside with your dog. If you cannot keep the back of your hand on the asphalt or cement for at least 5 seconds, then it is too hot for your dog’s paws!
  6. Don’t walk/jog/run with your dog in the middle of the day when the sun is highest in the sky. Dogs get dehydrated and overheat much quicker than we do. If you think it’s hot outside, imagine how hot your dog thinks it is!

We at Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital want everyone, including our pets, to have a fun and safe summer! If you are worried about your pet having any issues dealing with the heat over the summer please give us a call so that we can help!

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Sleep Tight, and Don’t Let the Bad Bugs Bite…

Sleep Tight, and Don’t Let the Bad Bugs Bite…


They can cause discomfort by biting, which results in itchiness, and can also cause an allergic reaction in some pets.

Here in Florida, we have the great benefit of year-round sunshine, and a sub tropical climate.  Unfortunately, pests that like to bother our pets enjoy the area, also.  We need to be vigilant year round to protect our furry family members from these creepy crawlers!

Fleas: Fleas are the most common parasite found on dogs and cats.  They can cause discomfort by biting, which results in itchiness, and can also cause an allergic reaction in some pets.  They feed on blood after biting, so in severe infestations can cause anemia.  They can also transmit some diseases, including Bartonella and are a vector for Tapeworms. 

Ticks:  Ticks are parasites that also feed on blood. Tick bites are usually not painful, but ticks can transmit a number of diseases to our pets.  Ticks like motion and warm temperatures from body head, so they are attracted to dogs and cats.  We see a number of tick species in our area. 

Mites:  There are two main kinds of skin mites we see on dogs and cats, Demodex and Sarcops.  They cause severe skin irritation, hair loss, and itchiness.  These are the parasites that cause mange.  We also see ear mites in some patients.

While all of these pests can cause discomfort for our four legged friends, we have a good arsenal of weapons against them, especially with some of the newer products available. 

Please contact us if you have any concerns about parasites and your pets!

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February is Pet Dental Health Month

February is Pet Dental Health Month!

Smiles Everyone!


“Some studies estimate that 70% of our dogs and cats have some degree of periodontal disease at 3 years of age.”

While most of our furry family members don’t worry about their smiles, we at Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital do!

Dental disease and periodontal disease is one of the most common problems that we see in our patients here.  Some studies estimate that 70% of our dogs and cats have some degree of periodontal disease at 3 years of age.  Dental and periodontal age can also increase the risk of developing heart problems or kidney problems.

Signs of dental disease in pets include bad breath and reluctance to eat.  Dental problems can also be very painful

Periodontal disease is something that we can treat and help prevent.  Most of our pets don’t enjoy having their teeth brushed, but it is an important part of their home oral care.

We also offer a range of dental services here at Loch Haven, including tooth cleaning and polishing, dental radiographs (that can show us what is going on below the gum line) and surgical extraction of diseased teeth if needed.

Please contact our office so that we can help you and your pet keep smiling and stay healthy!

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