Common Health Concerns


They may be miniscule in size, but fleas are irritating, unpleasant, and can be difficult to eliminate from your home and your environment. Fleas can also pose health risks to our pets including transmitting tapeworms, skin irritations, allergies to flea bites, and if left untreated, more severe health hazards.

A lot of us are unaware that people, as well as animals, can bring fleas into a home from an outdoor environment. Wildlife and stray animals can bring fleas into your backyard which can then be easily picked up and brought indoors. Once inside our homes, fleas will feed, multiply, and thrive on dogs, cats, and other pets. It is very important to protect and treat ALL pets within your home. Just one flea can multiply to 1,000 fleas on your pet and in your home in just 21 days! It does not take long for an infestation to occur.

These sinister parasites will feed on the blood of animals and female fleas will lay eggs on pets and in the environment, where they will develop into adult fleas, continuing the cycle. One female flea can lay 2,000 eggs. Carpets, bedding, and furniture are all places where the flea population will grow. Is your pet itching from flea bites? One flea can bite up to 400 times a day!
Fleas can seem overwhelming, but there are ways you can protect your pets and keep them healthy. Year-round prevention is strongly recommended and is a very proactive way to prevent infestations from occurring. Our experienced and trained staff is available to recommend products for flea control. And to answer any questions you may have!

Heartworm Disease

What is Heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a very serious condition that can lead to lung disease, heart failure, organ damage and even death. Heartworm infection is caused by parasitic worms called Dirofilaria immitis. Adult heartworms live within blood vessels of the lungs and heart and can be up to 12 inches long.

Who does Heartworm disease affect?
The definitive host is the dog, but it can also infect cats, wolves, coyotes, foxes and other animals, such as ferrets and sea lions. Under very rare circumstances, there have been case reports of human infections.

How is Heartworm disease transmitted?
Heartworms are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected animal it draws blood that contains immature heartworms called microfilariae, which mature inside the mosquito and become infective larvae. In turn, the mosquito bites another dog or animal and the larvae enter the new host. These larvae mature into adult heartworms in the dog and produce more microfilaria and continue the life cycle.

What are the clinical signs?

Common symptoms can be coughing (sometimes bloody), exercise intolerance, labored breathing, nose bleeds, fainting, weight loss, abnormal heart/lung sounds, vomiting and death. We recommend yearly testing so infection can be caught early and treated before clinical signs develop and permanent damage is done. Once a dog is infected it takes approximately 6 months for heartworms to migrate into the blood stream and through the blood vessels of the heart and lungs. In some cases it may takes years to develop clinical signs.

How is Heartworm disease diagnosed?
Diagnosis of heartworm disease is made by testing the blood for specific proteins called antigens, which are released by adult female heartworms into the dog’s bloodstream. Because these antigens are only released by adults it can take at least 6 or 7 months to accurately detect infections. Blood tests, radiographs and ultrasounds are used to help diagnose and stage heartworm disease.

How is Heartworm disease treated?
For dogs, the adult heartworms are killed by using an injectable medication called Immidicide. The dog must be hospitalized and given a series of injections in the muscle. After being sent home, the dog must be rested for 1-2 months to decrease the risk of blocked blood flow through the lungs by the dead worms, which will slowly be absorbed.

Can Heartworm disease be prevented?

Yes! There are several monthly preventatives, sold exclusively at veterinary hospitals or pharmacies. These preventatives work by killing the heartworm larvae in the dog’s body during the month prior to dosing. Many preventatives also protect against common intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.

Can cats get Heartworm disease?
Yes, cats are also susceptible to heartworm disease. In cats heartworm disease generally causes coughing, but often shows no clinical signs other than death. There is no safe and effective treatment for heartworm disease in cats. The best option is prevention. Heartgard and Revolution are products which can be used monthly to prevent infection.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infectious tick-borne disease caused by a type of bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi.  It is carried by the common deer tick (Ixodes Scapularis).

Who does Lyme disease effect?
Lyme disease effects dogs, cats, cows, horses, goats, and humans.

How is Lyme disease transmitted?
Ticks have several stages to their life cycle.  They typically hatch from eggs in the spring and become larvae.  The larvae may feed on small animals such as rodents and mice which may be infected with the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi(lyme).  The Larvae then becomes infected and the next year when it turns into a nymph and eventually an adult it will find a larger host ( SUCH AS OUR PETS!) and begin to feed after it attaches to the body.  The bacteria is then transferred from the tick’s mouthparts into the host.

What are the clinical signs?
The most common clinical sign in a dog is alternating front limb or hind limb lameness. (limping on one leg and then limping on another leg just a few days later)   Many pets also experience lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes), lethargy, and loss of appetite.   If left untreated you may start to notice more severe symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, increased drinking and urination, and weight loss. These are much more serious because these are often signs of kidney failure.   Many dogs experience very limited clinical signs but are still at  risk of long term side effects from the disease.  

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
It is easy to test for Lyme disease. We will draw a small amount of blood, and using the SNAP 4DX test (ELISA test) have your result in just 8 minutes. If your dog test positive for Lyme disease it is strongly recommended to follow with a quantitative Lyme test. This test will give a quantity of infection which in turn will help the Vet decide if treatment is the best option.

How is Lyme disease treated?
It is recommended to do a 28 day coarse of antibiotics, doxycycline being the best choice.  At the end of the 28 days it is highly recommended to vaccinate the dog for Lyme disease.

How can Lyme disease be prevented?
The best ways to prevent Lyme disease are to vaccinate yearly against the disease and use a tick preventative to help repel the ticks.


Approximately 7.2 Million (25-30%) US Dogs and approximately 15.8 Million US Cats are estimated to be obese. Obesity is the most common preventable disease in dogs in North America.

Obesity is typically caused by feeding too much food and providing too little exercise, but may also be an indicator of underlying disease, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) or Cushing’s disease (overactive adrenal glands). Choosing and feeding a proper diet specific to your individual pet’s needs is very important. Use the feeding guidelines on pet food labels as a guide only. Each pet metabolizes their food differently, just like humans. The amount of food appropriate for one healthy Labrador Retriever may be too much for another healthy Labrador Retriever. Some breeds may be more susceptible than others to obesity.

Obesity is an accumulation of excess body fat. Excess body fat and extra body weight typically go hand in hand. It is much easier to measure a pet’s weight versus measuring body fat, so we weigh overweight pets as a guide to document trends in weight gain or loss.

Obesity has many negative impacts on a pet’s health. In the past, it was believed that excess body fat was relatively inert; however, it has now been determined that fat tissue secretes inflammatory hormones and increases stress on the body which contribute to disease. Excess fat also impacts a pet’s longevity. In some pets, chronic obesity may reduce longevity (life-span) by up to 2 years!

Obese pets are susceptible to increased health risks, including but not limited to: arthritis, degenerative joint disease and/or traumatic joint injury, reduced lifespan (longevity), respiratory compromise, pancreatitis, diabetes mellitis, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, skin conditions, difficulty giving birth, decreased stamina or energy, heat intolerance and increased surgical and anesthetic risk. In addition to many of the above health concerns, obese cats are also at increased risk to develop hepatic lipidosis and urinary tract disease.

It is important to recognize and acknowledge that a pet is overweight or obese. Several ways to determine if your pet is overweight/obese are as follows:

  • Your pet has lost its figure. When viewed from above your pet’s back should show some gentle curves around the ribcage and then tucking in at the “waistline” just before the hips. When viewed from the side you should see a tucked up area just before the hind legs (a “waistline”).
  • You can no longer feel your pet’s ribs. Rib coverage is an important guide to determine whether your pet is overweight.
  • With healthy weight, you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs by applying gentle pressure with your fingertips along the ribcage just behind the shoulder blades. If you cannot feel the ribs without hard pressure, or you feel a cushioned body wall, your pet is carrying too much weight. A tip to determine how this should feel is to use the back of your hand as follows: Hold your hand palm down and feel your knuckles with the flats of the fingers on the opposite hand, this is how your dog’s ribs should feel just behind the shoulder blades.
  • Your pet has difficulty with exercise and/or is unable to keep up with you.

Treating obesity consists of several steps. The first step is recognizing and acknowledging that a pet is overweight and seek professional assessment. At a medical consultation, your veterinarian and team would then rule out potential medical causes of obesity. Some medical reasons for obesity are:

  • Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s disease, is an endocrine disease which can lead to a pet being overweight.
  • Hypothyroidism-a decreased production of thyroid hormone from a gland found in the neck can cause a pet to gain weight without excess calories.

If a medical condition is diagnosed, then a treatment plan would be discussed and instituted based upon the specific condition.

If there is not a medical condition present, then a weight-loss treatment plan would be created. It is important to remember that a diet for weight loss is not about starvation or deprivation. It is extremely important to work with your veterinarian to provide the correct nutrient balance while reducing your pet’s caloric intake and gradually increasing exercise. The goal is for safe, gradual weight loss. There are scientifically formulated, nutritionally complete, pet foods intended to provide healthy and safe weight loss over time. Talk with your veterinarian and health care team about an appropriate diet and exercise plan for your pet. At Lisbon Road Animal Hospital we offer weight loss and exercise consultations at our Wellness Center.

Increased physical activity needs to be used in conjunction with reduced caloric intake. If your pet continues to eat the same amount, then exercise alone will be unlikely to help him lose weight. Weight loss may depend upon the type of exercise used. Because pets don’t have control over the amount of food or what they eat, dogs and cats don’t have a choice regarding obesity, it is up to us as their guardians!

Some websites with more information regarding obesity:


It would be safe to say that if your pet ingests anything out of the ordinary or perhaps something that you are not quite sure about to call us or an emergency clinic. It is always better to be on the safe side.

Toxic foods

  • Avocado
  • Bread Dough
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate (Bakers, Dark, White)
  • Chives
  • Alcohol
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Hops (ingredient used in brewing beer)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Moldy foods
  • Onion
  • Raisins
  • Xylitol (Sugar free sweetener found in gum, candy, toothpaste)

Pain Medications

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Naproxen

Toxic Household Items

  • Batteries
  • Detergents
  • Ethylene Glycol (antifreeze)
  • Fertilizers (refer to labels to choose a pet safe product)
  • Fluoride
  • Insecticides
  • Kerosene
  • Mothballs
  • Prescription medications such as cardiac and antidepressants medications
  • Rodenticides (rat / mouse poisons)
  • Tobacco
  • Marijuana
  • Zinc (found in pennies)
  • Windshield washer fluid

Toxic Plants

For a list of toxic plants please visit the ASPCA website

Serious health concerns may arise from the ingestion of any of these products. Again, please do not hesitate to call us or any of the other phone numbers listed below.

Lisbon Road Animal Hospital 784-5421

Animal Emergency Clinic of Mid Maine   777-1110

Animal Poison Control   1-888-426-4435 (open 24/7/365) There is a fee for their service.

Poison Control (human)   1-800-222-1222 (open 24/7/365)  There is no charge for this call at this time.

   ****************************************************************************Here is a good article on foods that are toxic for dogs!  ( source: )
It’s always tempting to give in to those sad puppy dog eyes and feed our pups right off our plates.  However, there are some foods that should never be given to dogs.  Do you know which ones to avoid?

  • Chocolate – Most people have heard that chocolate is bad for dogs.  A chemical called theobromine is what poses the danger. It is a stimulant and a diuretic that can cause abnormal heart rate, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.  Theobromine is chemically related to caffeine, another substance in chocolate that is toxic to dogs.  Therefore anything caffeinated such as coffees and teas should also be kept away from pets.  It takes only a small amount to cause an effect and can take hours for symptoms to become apparent, so should your dog accidentally ingest chocolate, don’t hesitate to call your vet for advice.
  • Alcohol – Consuming alcohol is dangerous for dogs in the same ways that it is dangerous for humans.  It effects the liver and brain causing many of the same side effects we see in humans.  It’s important to understand that it takes far less alcohol to put a dog’s health, and even its life, in jeopardy.
  • Avocados – A substance found in avocados called persin is toxic to dogs.
  • Macadamia Nuts – An unknown toxin in macadamia nuts can be fatal to dogs.  As few as six can cause symptoms such as vomiting, stiffness, and weakness.
  • Xylitol – A sweetener found in candy, gum, toothpaste, and other common foods, xylitol can cause an insulin spike which can lead to liver failure.
  • Yeast Dough – The dough can continue to rise in a dog’s stomach, causing severe pain and in some cases can actually rupture the stomach.
  • Raw Meat or Fish – Raw meat can carry salmonella and E. Coli; raw fish can carry parasites.
  • Bones – Although they are common treats given to dogs, bones are actually better left off your pet’s menu.  They can cause choking or splinter and cause lacerations in the digestive tract.
  • Onions and Garlic – These can actually destroy a dog’s red blood cells and put your pet at risk for anemia.
  • Grapes and Raisins – The cause is still unknown, but grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs.  Vomiting is an early sign, followed by lethargy.