Protect Your Pet Against Canine Influenza


The doctors of Whitesburg Animal Hospital, PC are committed to alerting you to any changes in disease patterns in our community.  While there have been no recently reported cases of canine influenza in our immediate area; several cases have been confirmed across the United States.

What is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs.  It is easily spread via aerosolized respiratory secretions (coughing, barking and sneezing), contaminated objects (surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes) and people moving between infected and uninfected dogs. The virus can remain viable (alive and ready to infect) on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours.

The incubation period is usually two to four days from exposure to onset of clinical signs.  The highest amounts of viral shedding occur during this time; therefore, dogs are most contagious during this two to four-day incubation period when they are not exhibiting signs of illness.  While virus shedding decreases during the first four days; intermittent shedding can occur for up to 26 days.

Canine Influenza Strains

What are the Clinical Signs?

Clinical signs of influenza range from general respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, eye discharge) to lethargy, reduced appetite and a fever.  More severe cases may develop a thick nasal discharge.  If your pet experiences any of these symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately.

The good news is that most will recover, but it takes 3-4 weeks!  The greatest risk is for the unhealthy, very young, very old and those with weakened immune systems.  The greatest complication is pneumonia.  To reduce the spread of the virus, infected dogs should be isolated for at least 21 days.

How Can I Protect My Dog?

To best protect our community, Whitesburg Animal Hospital will require the Canine Influenza H3N8+H3N2 combination vaccine for all boarding and day-boarding canines, participants in our Enrichment program as well as guests visiting our private Dog Park.  We also recommend this combination vaccine for any dog that travels or participates in social activities.  Proper immunization requires two vaccinations given at a three-week interval then an annual booster.  Since the vaccination will not require a full physical examination, your pet’s appointment can be scheduled with a veterinary technician.  Please feel free to contact our office at 256-882-0950 if you have any questions or concerns.

The Myths and Facts of Heartworm Disease in Cats

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Heartworm Disease in CatsYou probably already know how important heartworm prevention is for your dog. But did you know that your cat is also susceptible to heartworm infection? Here we will discuss common myths and misconceptions about how heartworm disease affects cats.

MYTH: Cats are not the ideal host for heartworms, so it is not necessary to put my cat on a heartworm prevention.

FACT: While it is true that cats are resistant hosts, it is still possible for cats to become infected. Although some cats are able to mount an immune response strong enough to clear a heartworm infection, the immune response itself can cause many of the same signs associated with heartworm disease. And even if infection resolves, it can still leave your cat with respiratory damage.

MYTH: If my cat tests positive for heartworms, it is easy to treat.

FACT: While heartworm disease is treatable in dogs, the medication is not safe for cats. Currently, there is no recognized drug therapy for the treatment of heartworm in cats. Prevention remains the best option – ask us about starting your cat on a monthly prevention today!

MYTH: There is a reliable and accurate test available for feline heartworms

FACT:  Heartworm disease is difficult to detect in cats because they are less likely to have adult heartworms. As you already know, the test in dogs is only able to detect the adult female heartworm. The best method for detecting heartworms in cats consists of both antigen and antibody testing. The antibody tests detects exposure to heartworm larvae.

MYTH: The symptoms of heartworm disease in cats is the same as in dogs

FACT: Signs of heartworm disease in cats are are vague and often go misdiagnosed. Symptoms include coughing, periodic vomiting, weight loss, and inappetence. Loss commonly seizures, fainting, and fluid accumulation in the abdomen will occur. Unfortunately, some of those with heartworm disease will have no signs at all before experiencing sudden collapse or death.

MYTH: My indoor cat does not need to be on heartworm prevention.

FACT: Although exposure to the mosquitoes that carry heartworm is lessened if your cat never goes outside, the risk still remains. Just because your cat is strictly indoors doesn’t mean that mosquitoes can’t come inside too.


FAQ About Heartworms

How Are Heartworms Transmitted?

Heartworm DiseaseHeartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. The adult female heartworm lives in the infected host and produces baby heartworms called microfilariae which circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up the microfilariae which develop into larvae within 10 to 14 days.  Then, when the infected mosquito bites a dog or another susceptible animal, these mature larvae enter the new host through the bite wound. In six months they will mature into the adult heartworm and the whole process starts again. The adult heartworm will live five to seven years in dogs and two to three years in cats.

Why Should I Give Heartworm Prevention Year Round?

Mosquitoes become active when temperatures go above 50 degrees. In Alabama, it is not consistently cold enough to guarantee that mosquitoes won’t be active in the winter. Even in colder northern states, year round heartworm prevention is recommended. Mosquitoes are constantly adapting to colder temperatures, and different species are active at different times of the year.

What If I Miss A Dose?

If you miss giving one or more doses of heartworm prevention it is recommended to give the next dose as soon as you remember, and to continue giving every 30 days. Because it takes six months for the larvae to mature into adults, and a heartworm test can only detect the adult female, you will need to check a heartworm test six months from the missed dose.

If you are constantly forgetting to give monthly heartworm prevention, one option to consider is the remind me program through our online store. You can sign up to have a single dose automatically shipped to you at  the same time every month, and never forget your pet’s heartworm prevention again!

Do I Need To Give Heartworm Prevention If My Pet Doesn’t Go Outside?

All pets should be on heartworm prevention, whether they go outside or are strictly indoors. Mosquitoes can hitch a ride into your home on your clothes or through an open door or window. Rather than take the risk and hope your pet is never exposed, the best option is heartworm prevention. 

Heartworm Prevalence Map

What Are The Signs Of Heartworm Disease?

Signs of heartworm disease include chronic cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after activity, decreased appetite and and weight loss. Heart failure and cardiovascular collapse can occur as the disease progresses.

My Dog Is On Heartworm Prevention Year Round, Why Do I Need To Test?

No product is 100% effective, and yearly testing ensures that if there was a failure in the medication the your dog will be treated. Continuing to give the heartworm prevention will kill any larvae, but has no effect on adult heartworms.

What If My Pet Contracts Heartworms Even After Being On A Preventative?

No product is 100% effective. However, most heartworm prevention comes with a manufacturer’s guarantee, and they will reimburse you for some or all of the cost of treatment as long as there is proof that you have purchased it from a licensed veterinarian.

Are There Options Other Than Monthly Heartworm Prevention?

Yes! Whitesburg Animal Hospital carries an injectable form of heartworm prevention called Proheart 6, which protects against heartworms for 6 months. As with any heartworm prevention, a negative heartworm test is required before it can be administered.

The Fear Free Veterinary Experience

Fear Free Taking the Pet Out of PetrifiedAt Whitesburg Animal Hospital, providing the highest standard of care is our number one priority. We constantly strive to better serve you and your pet, which is why a majority of our staff is now Fear Free certified. Fear Free is a multi-modal approach to veterinary care that encompasses your pet’s emotional and physical well being.

We have made many changes around the hospital, but there are things you can do as well to help us make your pet’s next veterinary visit an enjoyable experience. Here just a few things you can do for your next visit:

Acclimate Your Cat to the Carrier

If you keep your cat carrier in the garage or attic and only take it out once or twice a year when your cat needs to go to the vet, you will most likely start the visit off with a lot of stress and anxiety. A better approach is to leave the carrier out year round – make this a safe spot for your kitty! Placing some food or treats in or near the carrier will help your cat associate it with good things, making it that much easier (and less stressful) when it comes time for a vet visit.

Skip a Meal

If medically appropriate, try not to feed your pet before the exam. One of the main ways that we reduce anxiety and stress during the exam is through the liberal use of food treats. In this way, your pet is focused on the positive experience of eating something yummy, not on the uncomfortable sensations that can sometimes accompany a trip to the vet. Please be aware that we do use peanut butter as a treat quite frequently at our hospital. Notify us immediately if you or your pet have a food allergy so that we can accommodate your needs.

Bring Favorite Treats or Toys From Home

Consider bringing your pet’s favorite treats or toys along for the visit. In an unfamiliar place, items from home will bring your pet a sense of security and comfort. In addition, they can also serve as a distraction from unpleasant sensations and a reward for good behavior, all of which will help reduce stress and anxiety.

Give Pheromones a Try

We have seen great success with the synthetic pheromones Feliway (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs). These products mimic the natural pheromones produced by your pet to create a sense of security. It may be helpful to use these products before the vet visit to reduce anxiety and stress in your pet.

Call From the Parking Lot

We know that the reception area can be a very stressful place for both you and your pet. If your pet experiences a lot of anxiety from being in the waiting room, don’t be afraid to give us a call when you arrive. We will arrange to bring you straight to the exam room from your vehicle.

Stay tuned as we share more about what it means to be Fear Free and what we are doing to reduce fear, anxiety and stress in the veterinary hospital.

Pet Dental Health

Did you know that periodontal disease is the most common condition in adult pets? Studies show that poor dental health can negatively affect the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver, with the potential to shorten the lifespan of your pet.

Signs of DBrushing Teeth for Good Dental Healthental Disease

  • bad breath
  • pawing at face
  • salivating
  • red, swollen gums
  • facial swelling
  • broken or loose teeth
  • trouble chewing / decreased appetite


A Healthy Weight Loss Diet Can Add Years To Your Pet’s Life

Jake before dietWe know that starting a weight loss diet for your pet can be overwhelming.  Here, we share a client’s amazing weight loss success with her own pet. We hope that seeing the difference she made in Jake’s quality of life will inspire you to continue your own journey in creating a healthy and happy lifestyle for your pet. Continue…

Make Weight Loss Your Pet’s Resolution For The New Year!

Weight Loss - Dog on ScaleDid you know that over 50% of dogs and cats in the US are overweight or obese? Obesity puts your pet at an increased risk for arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and respiratory disease. You can decrease the risk by promoting a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Make creating a healthy lifestyle through weight loss your pet’s new year’s resolution.