Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Heartworm Warfare, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and more ...

Heartworm treatment – the long and winding road

Dr. Karen Louis/Vetchick

Heartworm. Photo Sherbourne Animal Hospital

Heartworm is the scariest parasite out there. Because Cookie doesn't do well with tick preventives, we've taken our chances with it. Because our dogs never had fleas (*knock on wood), we take out chances with that. But I'd never ever take my chances with heartworm. The main reason for that being that the treatment is even scarier than the disease itself. Either the disease or the treatment can kill your dog.

It would be nice if there was a magic pill that just made all the worms disappear at once. Not kill, disappear. Why? Because if all the worms died all at once, game over. With severe infestation, the only good option is surgery.

Check out Vetchick's great article on heartworm warfare.

Why Doesn't My Dog... Answer to His Name?

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang/Vetstreet

The first response I got when I tweeted this article was, "Because he's ignoring you." That is clearly, a natural assumption. Why else wouldn't they respond?

Firstly, the assumption is that they KNOW their name. I remember a story in one of Stanley Coren's books, where they were dealing with the same question. After some observation, Dr. Coren asked the owner to go to another room and call out, "No." And what do you know, the dog responded. The dog knew what his name was, the owner didn't.

Assuming your dog indeed does know what his or hers actual name is, and doesn't respond, is he or she ignoring you? The answer is maybe. How well did you train your dog? Did you proof the recall with distractions? Some distractions can be powerful. The dog might just be too busy to respond or your call might not even register. Once Cookie was hot on the heels of a rabbit; I was right beside her, and she had no clue I was even there.

More importantly, though, did you consider that there might be a medical explanation? Perhaps your dog's hearing doesn't work as well as it used to. Perhaps they are in too much pain to respond.

Before you get mad at your dog for not answering to their name, make sure there is not a health issue behind it or it's not for lack of training. When our dogs do something other than we want, it is not their fault but ours.

Using Omega 3 Fatty Acids Effectively and Safely

Dr. Jennifer Coates/petMD

Omega-3 fatty acids are not on the list of essential nutrients for dogs. I believe they should be. Particularly now when the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in food sources has shifted far in favor of omega-6.

Dogs need linoliec acid, which belongs to the omega-6 fatty acids. It's important for skin and coat, kidney function, it is a constituent of cell membranes and it is involved with immune function. All that is very important. When it comes to immune function, omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. Inflammation is part of the process of the body battling a disease. But too much inflammation actually leads to disease. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are anti-inflammatory. Since the body needs to be able to use inflammation when needed but doesn't need it go rampant all over, the balance between the two types of fatty acids is where it's all at. But that's not all there is to the story.

When supplementing your dog with omega-3 fatty acids, learn what is the right way of doing it.