Our companion animals often instinctively hide their pain. It’s a habit that has evolved as a survival mechanism to prevent predators from targeting them.
“Pain in dogs and cats can be difficult to measure,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Hospice, which provides palliative and euthanasia services throughout West Michigan.
“The clues can be subtle. Your dog may be reluctant to climb stairs or show decreased activity, or may simply stop initiating play,” she said. “In the case of cats, a reluctance to jump up onto surfaces is a sign of discomfort.”
The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) was created to educate vets and pet parents alike in the expanding field of pain prevention, management and treatment.
According to IVAPM, the most common signs of pain in your pet are:
Decreased activity – Take notice if your pet is not playing as much as usual
Not going up or down stairs – This could be an early sign of osteoarthritis
Difficulty standing after lying down – is a sign of osteoarthritis
Over grooming or licking a particular area – can be a sign of referred pain
Decreased appetite – this can signal mouth pain
Reluctance to jump up onto surfaces – this especially applies to cats
Behavior changes – such as growling at fellow companion animals or withdrawal
Pain Management Options:
There are a variety of complementary treatment options depending on the source of pain, including physiotherapy, cold laser, acupuncture and nutritional supplements. In addition, there are many types of medication that can help manage your pet’s pain and improve their quality of life. Some examples are:
NSAIDs – There are special NSAIDs designed for dogs that interfere with the body’s production of inflammatory molecules and are often prescribed for mild to moderate pain.
Opioids – Just like humans, pets may be prescribed opioids to address severe pain from arthritis or advanced cancer.
Corticosteroids – Cortisone and synthetic cortisone-like drugs such as prednisone are potent anti-inflammatory medications that can deliver dramatic relief, though not without side effects.
Gabapentin – Is a popular choice for managing chronic neuropathic pain.
Don’t let your pet needlessly suffer. Be observant for signs of pain and talk to your vet.
By this time last summer, Michigan was amidst a rapid spread of Canine Influenza, three years after an outbreak of new strain H3N2 in Chicago. In Grand Rapids, some doggie daycares closed and mounted mass vaccination efforts while pet parents sidelined social opportunities for 10-30 days to confine the spread. Meanwhile, confirmed cases of CIV spread across the US, with approximately 20% of affected pets contracting the severe, life-threatening form.
What can we expect this year?
“It will depend on how many pet parents vaccinated their pets. This is a new strain of avian origin so pets who’ve not previously been exposed are at risk. There’s no natural immunity to Dog Flu,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven At Home Pet Hospice.
In her line of palliative work, “Dog Flu” is a serious — and possibly deadly –complication for senior pets who have other health ailments and compromised immune systems. In these companion animals, fevers can range from 104ºF to 106ºF and may show clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort.
“Vaccination should be considered for dogs with heart or respiratory conditions, dogs that travel or show, and those that have extensive contact with other dogs,” she said.
Signs of Dog Flu to Watch for:
“Dog Flu” symptoms are very similar to Bordetella and other viruses. Testing is tricky because there is a 3-day window for active testing before antibodies are produced. Watch your pet for these signs:
High Fever (103ºF)
Loss of appetite
Cough, which may be dry or may bring up sputum
Runny nose with clear secretions at first, but may later change to thick yellow or pink-tinged color
How does it Spread?
Dogs who are boarded, go to daycare or visit grooming facilities where there is close contact with other dogs are at highest risk. The virus spreads through direct contact, through the air from a cough or sneeze, and from contaminated objects like water bowls or human hands. How to Prevent Dog Flu Vaccines are now available for both strains of CIV, and are given in a series of 2 shots 2-4 weeks apart. The vaccine may not all together prevent an infection, but will reduce the severity and duration of clinical illness.
Bianca came to me by way of transport from North Carolina. She was a deaf stray who was found under a deck with her three babies. She was a beautiful cat – big blue eyes and long soft white fur. We called her the LION QUEEN, as she loved the backyard. She would sit on top of the deck railing, and would chase any critters out of the yard. When she saw me she would run to me or into the house, knowing it was time to come in. She is truly missed and was the best cat I could ever asked for – I will miss her everyday. We lost her too young at 10 years old. We let her pass over in her backyard.
Your service was wonderful. I heard about the process from a friend in Florida, and my daughter’s vet recommended you. You were wonderful all through the process and her passing was absolutely beautiful.
There are certain great dogs that find you only once in a lifetime. For us that dog was Noonan, our Golden Doodle. He was truly an old soul; gentle, always calm, and confident even in the face of chaos. He was our emotional sponge, absorbing tears, hugs, joy, exhaustion and despair without ever asking for anything in return. He was ALWAYS there for our family, and made our house a home through his warmth and unconditional love. Noonan was there to guide us through our formative years. He was in our wedding, studied long hours with me during medical school, helped welcome both our children into the world, moved into our first house with us, rode in the back seat as we test drove our first car, and would always welcome me home at the end of long days of medical residency (no matter how haggard I looked). He helped define the last decade of our life, and we will be forever grateful for the memories and love he gave to our family. Keep chasing those tennis balls on the other side buddy. Thanks for guiding us through the good times and the bad; we’ll take it from here and try to live up to your impeccable standard for living life.
Thank you for giving our family member the dignified death he deserved. We will always be grateful to you.
Lambeau was born on 11/28/2007. We brought our new Golden Retriever home as soon as he was old enough. He was a big Golden as were his parents and very laid back. Our grandchildren could climb all over him, wrestle with him, and play tug-of-war with him with his blanket and he was always ready to play. He really enjoyed when people came to visit and also the snow. Lambeau will always be in our hearts and thoughts. We love him very much.
We’re so appreciative of Heaven at Home and the services they provide. We worked with Kathryn and Dr. Amy and these two wonderful people made it possible for us to get through this situation. We cannot say enough good things about these two angels. Their compassion, thoughtfulness, and tender-heartedness for Lambeau and us through this ordeal was great. It was especially nice that Dr. Amy could come to our home to put Lambeau at rest. The entire process was so comforting and peaceful. Thank you so much.
Frosty was a young energetic boy when we first got him. He loved to play and one game was stealing any article of clothing that was laying around, though he was not opposed to rooting around a pile of clothes for to find a sock. Then he would flaunt it and prance around until I chased him to get it back. When he came, we already had a husky, named Tanner, and the 2 of them had to duke it out. Tanner was older and 20 pounds lighter, so Frosty was no push-over; we always knew when Tanner nipped a little too hard as we would see him running for his life from Frosty.
Tanner loved to hunt mice and moles/voles and it was Frosty’s job to the kill unless we got there first — he really liked volecicles in the winter. After Tanner jumped the rainbow bridge, Frosty’s thought was “Great I get all the attention now!” – that lasted 2 months and then we got Angus. Once again Frosty had to teach his buddy to play even though he was already slowing down. Unfortunately, we only had Angus a year before he raced across the rainbow bridge. Frosty’s latest buddies came last September, Ember, and in January, Cappy; once Cappy was acclimated and firmly part of the pack, Frosty knew his job was done. His downhill slide gained momentum once Cappy was declared healthy. A regal king and loyal companion to the end. We really miss you big buddy, but happy you are strong and healthy again.
The staff at Heaven at Home has God given gifts to perform this service, the care and compassion was heart felt and very needed at a difficult time like this. If the final moments in aiding a beloved pet across the rainbow bridge can be “beautiful”, this was it. Dr. Laurie made it a family affair as we all surrounded Frosty on the floor; he was already on his favorite comforter. Ember and Cappy stayed close while Betsy held Frosty’s head. Now Ember may have been more interested in the treats in Dr. Laurie’s bag, since that is where she parked herself, but Cappy, after seeking kisses form Dr. Laurie and myself, laid down by Frosty’s head. Dr. Laurie carefully explained each step and patiently waited for any questions and allowing all the time needed to process and grieve the loss of losing Frosty. Frosty’s crossing was very peaceful, and everything was done with the utmost respect, care and compassion. Thank you!
Whether you’re heading to the Lake for a summer vacation or staying closer to home to enjoy the great outdoors, be on the lookout for the increasingly pervasive Black Legged (Deer) tick, purveyor of Lyme disease.
Frequent pet checks will help keep your pet – and your family – safe from Lyme disease, which has increased five-fold in the past decade throughout Michigan and is reaching what the CDC is calling epidemic proportions across America. The CDC estimates 300,000 cases last year, making Lyme the fastest growing vector-borne illness.
While lower Michigan had historically been spared a heavy infestation of Black Legged ticks – theoretically preserved from Illinois population due to Lake Michigan – migration continues from several counties in northern Indiana, which have reported ticks infected with B. burdorferi, the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.
Black Legged ticks have become established throughout the entirety of the Lake Michigan shoreline in the Lower Peninsula. But tick populations are not staying confined to coastal counties, and are becoming established increasingly to the east in the southern part of the state, including Grand Rapids.
According to the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association, clinical Lyme disease in domestic animals may involve many organ systems. Fever, loss of appetite, depression, lethargy, swelling and pain in one or more joints, kidney disease, heart disease, and nervous system disorders have all been reported.
“An accurate diagnosis can only be made by a veterinarian. A Lyme disease vaccine is available. Consult your veterinarian about the appropriateness of vaccinating your pet and also to discuss recommendations for avoiding ticks,”
– Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.
Last year, the FDA granted Nexgard the right to label the medication for Lyme disease prevention after clinical trials showed that the acaricide killed ticks before the disease could be transmitted, which typically takes 24-48 hours. Pet parents should discuss the risks and benefits of parasiticides with their routine care veterinarians because these types of medications all have the risk of possible side effects.
Other Ticks & Diseases Becoming Prevalent in Michigan
In the last decade, diseases spread by ticks, fleas and mosquitos tripled, according to the CDC. While many research papers point to climate change and milder winters for the rise in vector-borne illnesses, our highly mobile population also plays a role. Despite Michigan’s historical “protection” by the surrounding Great Lakes that slow the rise, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is predicting increase prevalence of diseases carried by ticks in the Great Lakes area in 2019.
Tick populations mate in the summer, increasing to peak populations in Fall.
Nationally, prevalence rates have risen each of the past 5 years and are now up 20% from 2013 levels, according to CAPC. The organization maintains an interactive map of diseases detected across North America:
Tick Types In Michigan:
Ticks to be on the lookout for include:
American Dog Tick
Black-legged Tick (Deer)
Lone Star Tick
These ticks can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia canis, and increasingly, Anaplasmosis.
The major vector of RMSF in Michigan is the American Dog tick, D. variabilis. It can also transmit the bacteria that causes Tularemia, and can harbor the Ehrlichiae bacteria.
In this video by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), the council explains why the prevalence of the American Dog tick is of such grave concern. Essentially, as a tick that also infects animals in urban areas, it carries great potential to infect not only pets with diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but also another zoonotic disease (which means they can be transmitted to humans) that’s on the rise: Tularemia.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Dogs are very susceptible to RMSF. Other small domestic mammals that are allowed outdoors or have contact with infected ticks may also contract this disease. Signs of RMSF include combinations of fever, lack of appetite, arthritis, shortness of breath, coughing, abdominal pain, nervous system disorders and swelling of the face or extremities. Small hemorrhages on the mucous membranes occur in severe cases. Transmission from dogs to humans does not occur, but people should exercise caution when removing ticks from pets, as the fluids from the tick can carry the RMSF organism.
Ehrlichia canis is the disease in dogs, caused by Ehrlichia canis, and other Ehrlichia species, mimics RMSF.
Tularemia is a bacterial disease caused by Francisella tularensis and is often referred to as rabbit fever. Tularemia is most commonly found in rabbits and rodents, and it survives by creating tumor-like masses and abscesses in the victim animal’s liver. Tularemia is often self-limiting although some dogs experience short periods of poor appetite, lethargy, and mild fever. Less frequently, dogs may show conjunctivitis, uveitis (inflammation in their eyes), draining abscesses, and enlarged lymph nodes.
Anaplasmosis, aka dog fever or dog tick fever, is a tick-borne disease that infects a dog’s bloodstream. The most common form of the disease is transmitted by deer tick bites and infects white blood cells. A second type, carried by the brown dog tick, affects the blood-clotting cells known as platelets. This disease can also infect humans and is common throughout the United States. CAPC predicts it will be highly active in the Great Lake States this year.
How to Check Your Dog for Ticks – What AKC Recommends:
1. Inside of Ears – Ticks sit themselves on tall grasses and shrubs, waiting for your dog to walk by, so they can attach themselves to him. With so many crevices and hiding places, the ears make a perfect home for a hungry tick. When checking your dog, make sure to look deep into the ear, because the ticks can get attached and go unnoticed for a long time. If your dog is shaking and scratching at his ear, it’s a sure sign that something is off, and you’ll want to take a look.
2. Between Toes – Since ticks like to hide in places where they won’t be found, crawling in-between your dog’s toes and attaching there is a common occurrence. You can find them in-between the toes or even on the bottom of the foot near the pads.
3. Under the Tail – Ticks like dark, moist areas, so the underside of the tail makes a great home. If your dog has thick fur, you’ll want to make sure to comb through it and search thoroughly. A fine comb will likely catch a tick that’s attached itself under the tail.
4. In the Genital Region – Most dog owners aren’t keen on checking their dog’s genital regions. However, this area is another dark, moist region on the body that attracts ticks.
5. Around Eyelids – Ticks go unnoticed near the eyelids because they’re mistaken for skin tags or eye discharge. Unfortunately, by the time many owners realize there is a tick on their dog’s eyelid, the tick has been attached for quite a while.
6. Under the Collar – Many dogs rarely have their collars taken off. Ticks can become attached underneath your dog’s collar without anyone noticing, usually until the tick is large enough to be seen — which means it’s been there for a while. Remove the collar to do a thorough check for ticks.
How to Safely Remove a Tick
1. Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick by the head as close to the skin as possible.
2. Then gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not: twist or jerk the tick, apply petroleum jelly, a hot match, or other irritants. This can lead to infection because the tick’s mouth parts may remain embedded, or you may be burned. Use your fingernails and tissue paper if tweezers are not available.
3. Immediately wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water then apply an antiseptic to the bite wound.
If in doubt of tick identification, place the tick in a small vial containing a damp piece of tissue and submit it to your local health department for examination.
Tips from Tufts University on Reducing Tick Risk:
1. Take care of your yard. Mowing the lawn regularly will make your backyard less attractive to ticks. Be sure to pull tall weeds and to remove leaf litter, particularly from under shrubs and around the perimeter, because that’s where ticks hide. Secure your outdoor trash cans to discourage rodents that carry deer ticks.
2. Use a tick preventive on your pet. Make sure you choose a veterinarian-recommended product that is safe for all the animals in your household.
3. Check your animals for ticks daily. If your pets spend time outside, feel them for bumps, parting their fur so you can see where the coat meets the skin. Pay particular attention to under the legs, around the neck and inside the ears.
4. Talk to your veterinarian about a canine Lyme vaccine. Some research suggests that vaccination appears to work well in preventing infection in dogs not previously exposed to the Lyme bacterium. However, it’s still important to use a tick preventive on your pet.
5. Protect yourself. Use repellent, wear treated clothing, shower after being outside and regularly check yourself for ticks. They can hop from you to your pet.
Since it can take 24 to 48 hours for an attached tick to transmit an infection to its host, prompt and proper removal is helpful in preventing disease onset.
Jett was an amazing blessing to our family. Through all the transitions of life; education, careers, multiple moves, and multiple children, he was the constant. We had never had a dog before and he was better than we deserved. We didn’t know what we were doing at first, but he was the kind of partner that never required cages, boarding, leashes, anything. He was fiercely loyal, patient, and gentle. It was almost unfair to him, but we were able to hold him to a higher standard than just being a pet. He was family and he never disappointed. We love you Jetter and you will always be a part of us all.
Dr. Laura and the staff members we worked with (primarily Kathryn and Mary) were all amazing. They were patient, empathetic, and always took the time to answer all our questions. We truly felt they cared for our situation uniquely and could see it on Dr. Laura’s face when the time had come. We give this group so much credit to have to do this type of position daily, but even through that, they were never cold or calculated. Thank God for people like this, who made what felt like an impossible decision and time, at least bearable, so that we could do the right thing and give our family member dignity and peace at the end. There was never any fear like he would have had, had we done this any other way. We will be forever grateful for that.
Mackinac Island Fall Colors’s Story:
It has been a little more than 2 weeks since our little buddy, Mackinac, went to the Rainbow Bridge…April 29, 2019. He was just shy of 15. He came to live in our hearts and home when he was just 8 weeks old.
We are just getting to the point where we can talk about the countless memories we have, without tearing up. We knew this would be difficult, but really didn’t understand how very much. Making it all the more difficult is that Mac was such a special dog. Everyone who knew him would comment that “there must be a little human somewhere inside that dog body!”
He had a wonderful life with us, and we with him. We vacationed as a family all these years, and he was a better traveler than any PEOPLE we know! He had a good old time with other dogs…dog parks and daycare. He loved exploring the woods, and you had to really keep the wild-child in control when he even looked at a beach!
Someday, we will welcome a new dog. We will have to be careful not to compare, as we will never have another dog like Mackinac.
Always knew Mac would NOT have his life ended on a cold, hard vet’s table. Knew of Heaven at Home for quite awhile. Could not have done this without Dr Laurie. You have no idea how grateful we are that you are providing this service. Thank you! Thank you!
Miss Daisy’s Story:
I adopted Miss Daisy just two years ago. She came from a home with large dogs and was kind of pushed by the wayside, as she was just a thirteen pound little girl, and never got the love and attention she deserved. When she came to our home, she was loved and her new sister, Bella, became her best friend as though they had always been together. She loved to go for walks, even with her short little legs, having to be carried part of the way – she certainly enjoyed the outdoors. She also never missed the opportunity for a car ride. When it was time to go somewhere, she would dance around with her tail just a wagging. She certainly was a happy little girl. Miss Daisy, you will be terribly missed by your sister Bella and your mom. The good Lord will love you and take care of you until we all meet again.
Many, many thanks to Dr. Brush and her office staff. The several times I came to the office to get medicine, everyone was so kind and compassionate. A special thanks to Dr. Brush for helping Miss Daisy pass so peacefully, in my arms, where she knew she was loved. Again, thank you, you’re the angel in our fur babies lives.