Chasing Heartworms in Wisconsin

Let’s Talk Heartworm!


It’s that time of year again – birds are coming back, snow is thawing, the days are longer and Heartworm Season is officially under way! Most of our canine clients will bring their pet in at some point during the year for the all-important heartworm blood test and heartworm prevention. However, if you talk to them many don’t really understand why they do it. We are fortunate to be in a part of the country where Heartworm disease is less common (compared to the south for example), so is it really a big deal? To answer that, let’s ask one of our patients – Chase!


Chase and Emily - Heartworm Disease Dogs - Oakview Vet Plover WI
Chase and one of his nurses, Emily


Chase is a 4 year old Portuguese Water Dog owned by a fabulous couple in Portage County. After the loss of their previous dog they decided to adopt a young adult from a breeder in Illinois. It is important to note that to our knowledge, Chase had never left the state of Illinois prior to his adoption. As soon as they brought Chase home they made an appointment for us to examine him and perform a heartworm test in order to start his monthly prevention. Imagine our surprise and dismay when that test was positive!

Below is a video taken through a microscope. The red blobs are red blood cells, and the string-like movements among them are baby heartworms. This is just a single drop of blood! Imagine them wiggling through the whole blood stream!


Although Chase’s owners were upset, they are people of action (lucky Chase!) and we immediately collected the information we needed to safely treat Chase for this disease. Blood was collected to be sure there were no other problems (such as a liver or kidney issue that could delay treatment). X-Rays showed that his heart was enlarged from the worms, so they all took a trip to the Veterinary School in Madison for an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of his heart). Fortunately his heart was not damaged! Finally, the special (and expensive) drug used to kill the heartworms was ordered and administered (Chase would like to say that he did NOT like that part!). Before we get to the end of the story, let’s review a little about heartworm disesase.


Heartworm Disease - Dogs - Oakview Vet Plover WI provides this enlightening map showing that Wisconsin is in an area of risk for heartworms.


So what is Heartworm disease anyway?

Heartworm disease is exactly what it sounds like. It is a parasite (worm) that lives in the right upper heart (the right atrium) and the large blood vessel that attaches to the atrium (the vena cava).  They grow to be up to 12 inches long and look a lot like spaghetti. Because they live in the heart (and vena cava) they will interfere with blood flow, cause heart enlargement, lung disease and ultimately many dogs with heartworm will die from the disease. There are many excellent websites where you can go to find even more information; The American Heartworm Society has an excellent site!


Heartworm dog canine - Oakview Vet Plover WI
Actual Heartworms found in a dog’s heart


How can a mosquito spread a worm?

Because the adult worms live in the blood stream, when they have babies (microfilaria) those babies are also in the blood stream! A mosquito bites an infected dog, sucks up blood and baby heartworms and then bites your dog effectively transmitting the disease. It is important to note that ONE MOSQUITO can effectively transfer several microfilaria! It only takes ONE BITE!


heartworm life cycle dogs - Oakview Vet Plover WI
The Life Cycle of Heartworm


Is it really a problem in Wisconsin?

Unfortunately, after a decrease in reported cases of heartworm disease around 2010, heartworm is on the rise again in our area as well as in other parts of the country. Remember how Chase came here from Illinois? This shows that heartworm is also originating from farther north.

Several factors contribute to this increase in incidence:

  • a mobile society where people may move from Texas to Wisconsin and bring a heartworm positive dog with them
  • wildlife such as foxes and wolves may carry the disease
  • failure to treat positive dogs – treating a dog with heartworm is expensive (just ask Chase’s new mom and dad!) and some people just can’t afford it. That means a positive dog may spread heartworm for months or years!
  • failure to prevent the disease – this happens most often in small, primarily indoor dogs. We often hear people say, “He only goes outside to go potty!”. While a primarily indoor dog definitely is at a lower risk than an outdoor dog, who among us doesn’t get mosquitoes in their house at times!?
  • failure to prevent the disease ALL of the time. In Wisconsin, we get a short break from mosquitos that transmit the disease, however, we have clients that vacation south (south being south of the Wisconsin border!) and forget to prevent the disease there!
  • 2017 was a high year because of the mild winter and high rainfall. We are expecting this trend to continue into 2018


Isn’t prevention expensive?

Not really! Depending on the size of your dog, heartworm prevention may be as little as $4.00/month. And even in larger dogs where it may be higher (depending on which prevention you choose), it is usually less than $15/month ($0.50/day) and most of us spend that on a soda, candy bar or bag of chips! For most dogs the cost of preventing heartworm disease THEIR ENTIRE LIVES is less than treating it one time!


heartworm prevention - Oakview Vet - Plover WI
A selection of products available to prevent heartworm, from monthly chewable tablets to a 6 month injection.


So what happened to Chase? Instead of being able to run and play and go for long walks, Chase was in for several months of testing, treatment and exercise restriction. Fortunately for him, his new people were dedicated to helping him recover and he is now doing well! However, it was a long road for all of them and they are hoping to spare some of you the same heartbreak they experienced. As of December, Chase is heartworm free! He says he can’t wait for this summer!!

Chasing Heartworms - Oakview Vet - Plover WI
Chase can’t wait to run and play!



Dr. Scott
Written by Diane Scott, DVM. She brings wisdom, humor, and courage to Oakview Vet every day!

Remember to click on “follow” on the bottom right and enter your email. You will get an email every time there is a new blog post.

Follow us on Facebook!

Check out our website:



Stinky Kisses: Why does my dog’s breath smell?

Why does my dog’s breath smell?Chelsea - Oakview Vet - Plover WI

Few smells are as unpleasant as a dog with bad breath. Daisy might think that you appreciate her kisses, but if she has bad breath, then getting up close and personal is the last thing that you want to do. We all know bad breath when we smell it. Bad breath is usually the results of bacteria in your dog’s mouth. There are other causes of bad breath such as diabetes or kidney disease, so if you notice any changes in your pet’s breath – please see your veterinarian.

Most often, canine bad breath is caused by oral disease. Unfortunately, small breed dogs get more than their fair share of dental disease – tartar, gingivitis and periodontal disease.


Bad Teeth
A small dog with heavy plaque build up causing severe dental disease. Do you want kisses from this dog?

How to treat bad breath

Most of the treats, chews and supplements purported to treat doggie bad breath are ineffective because they don’t address the underlying cause of the problem. Addressing the actual problem depends on your veterinarian’s assessment and recommendations. If dental disease is discovered, Daisy might require a professional dental cleaning and treatment. If it’s an issue of diet, you might have to change Daisy’s food. If the cause is an abnormality in the liver, kidneys or GI tract, your veterinarian will outline your options for addressing these issues.

Can I prevent my dog from having bad breath?

Dog Teeth cropped
Clean teeth and fresh breath! Read on for Dr. Hankison’s Checklist for Dental Health!

Many people assume that bad breath in older dogs is inevitable, but that’s not always the case. Being proactive about your pet’s oral health will keep your pet healthier and happier, plus make your life together more pleasant.



Dr. Hanksion’s Checklist for Dental Health:

  • Schedule regular check ups for your pet to make sure that she doesn’t have any underlying medical issues that may cause halitosis.
  • Make sure that your veterinarian evaluates your pet’s oral health at every visit.
  • Feed your dog a high-quality pet food. Dry food has been shown to reduce plaque the most. Canned food, however, doesn’t cause much more plaque than dry food. The diet’s that have been shown to be the worst are the “semi-moist” foods. To keep the texture soft, the manufacturer has to use excessive sugar, salt or chemicals that create a “gummy” consistency that contributes to dental disease.
  • Brush your dog’s teeth frequently. Once a day is best, while every other day is good. Once a week is better than most pet owners – so anything is better than nothing. Be sure to use a pet toothpaste because human toothpaste can cause issues for pets. I will address teeth brushing in a later article.
  • Provide safe, appropriately sized chew toys that help with the natural teeth cleaning process of chewing. Greenies, Milk Bone Brushing Chews, Nylabones, rawhides (American-made is recommended due to some previous issues from imported rawhides) are some chew toys to consider. As always, check with your veterinarian before giving your pet any treats or chew toys.
Busy Buddy enhanced
Busy Buddy toys can help clean teeth through play


  • NEVER give your pet a chew unsupervised. Unfortunately, some dogs will try to swallow toys rather than chew them (even if they have always chewed on them appropriately before).
  • Most dogs will gnaw and chew at these toys – that is great! Unfortunately, if Daisy chews her toy twice and tries to swallow it whole – NEVER give her that toy again.
  • Please do not give your dog BONES. While chewing on bones can be an effective way to remove calculus, bones are the number one cause of broken teeth. There are safer ways to keep their teeth clean.




Dr Kris Hankison - Veterinary Dentist - Oakview Vet - Plover WI
Written by our fearless dental guru, Dr Hankison. With over 30 years in practice, clients and staff alike appreciate his knowledge, compassion, and humility.

Scoopin’ the Poop: Cats and Litter Boxes

Cats and Litter Boxes

Did you know that the number one reason for pet owners to surrender a cat is due to inappropriate use of their litter box!  This is a sad and unfortunate occurrence, and often times the veterinarian is the last to know. Here are some helpful tips that can aid in preventing litter box avoidance in our finicky felines.  But first and foremost, if there is a concern, please contact Oakview Veterinary Medical Center ASAP so we can help to resolve it. The longer the inappropriate use of the litter box goes on the harder it is to resolve, and to find the potential underlying cause.  It is important to rule out medical causes that could be affecting your pet such as urinary tract infection, pain or anxiety.

Oakview Vet Blog - Plover WI


Litter Box Etiquette

  1. First and foremost there is a formula! Who knew math would be involved?

The # of cats  + 1 litter box  ( 3 cats + 1 = 4 litter boxes in household minimum)

  1. Scoop daily, wash weekly.
  2. Choose open litter box styles vs. closed or ones with lids.
  3. If you live in a multi-level household there should be a box on each level.
  4. Choose a litter and stick to it! Non-scented is preferred!
  5. If all the litter boxes you have are in view from each other, they count as 1, not 3.
  6. Bigger is Better, choose the largest litter boxes you can find, and if they are all too small get creative and design your own. The garment boxes that roll under beds for storage actually make ideal litter boxes.


Litter Boxes
These litter boxes are for a senior cat, so not only is a large one provided, but the smaller one has the sides cut down for more comfortable entry for an arthritic cat. This home has 1 cat and 4 litter boxes.


The Real Estate of Litter Boxes

Location, location, location!!

If our feline friends are avoiding the litter box, make sure that the location isn’t adding to the situation.  IF the only place to use it is located down a flight of stairs in the farthest reaches of the basement, then there are improvements that can be made. And if one cat guards a litter box, be sure everyone has a safe space to use the box.

If you have a cat who is not using the litter box, see our last post for how to contact our helpful behavior technician Emily.


See you next month! February is all about dentistry in cats and dogs.

 Dr. Curtis
Written by Valerie Curtis, DVM

Dr. Curtis received her undergraduate degree at UWSP and her doctorate of veterinary medicine at Purdue University. She has been in practice for over 10 years. Her knowledge, attention to detail, and compassion are integral to our practice here at Oakview.


Cat Blog Inspiration

Having two wonderful cats of my own is part of what drives me to provide the best care possible for all cats. As a new blogger, they have also been my inspiration! So, I thought you might want to meet them.

Exhibit A-you can’t even see the heater vent!

This is definitely a cold time of year, made even colder by the fact that both my cats have located my heater vent in the bedroom and are consistently found taking all the warmth from it! See Exhibit A above! Notice how you cannot even visualize one inch of the heater vent this time of year! And not even one bit of guilt on his face, imagine that.

Waldo was a cat who was brought to the clinic and surrendered. Shortly after, he ended up needing surgery! Something was stuck in his stomach. After I removed it, I decided he was mine.


Exhibit B

Exhibit B is my other heat thief, Zeike. He was a stray who a client of mine was feeding outside their workplace. He has tried to steal human food ever since! Especially cheetos…

Just like many of us in vet clinics, my pets just seem to fall in my lap. I believe Zeike and Waldo chose me, and I will be forever grateful!

Be sure to take a look next week. I will be talking about litter box etiquette!

Written by Valerie Curtis, DVM

Food Puzzles for Cats

Cat Enrichment

Indoor cat enrichment, what does that even mean? Why would I do anything extra for my cat if they are content sleeping all day, eating some food, and going back to sleep? What more is there? They act as if they don’t even need me, but is that true?

The reality is that cats that are allowed to go outside lead significantly shorter lives than indoor only cats. Outside, cats are able to hunt, explore, and discover. It is now up to us to provide ways for our companions to have these experiences indoors.

It has become such an important issue in our indoor cat homes that The Ohio State University Veterinary school has launched a website dedicated to this topic called The Indoor Cat Initiative. This is an excellent resource for all feline homes, so please check it out. They provide ideas for indoor cat enrichment, but really you are only limited by your imagination!

Food Puzzles

In the video below, toys for food motivated kitties are featured. They offer a unique way to feed them and offer brain stimulation at the same time. If they were outside they would need to hunt down their food by waiting patiently, stalking it and finally…well, you know what comes next, but inside food is always waiting. How boring. Luckily there are all kinds of innovative ways to improve their meal time.

Here I am sharing some food toys that my cats enjoy, so much so that Zeike will actually start knocking it around and meowing at me if it is empty until he gets his playtime. This product is called a Fish Bowl that Waldo likes and Zeike enjoys the Slim Cat ball.

Local Resources

Please take a peek at Jay-Mar right next door to Oakview Veterinary Medical Center to check out their selection of cat friendly toys and treats.

Visit the Companion Shop located in downtown Stevens Point. They are a local source for  unique products for cats like catnip toys, food puzzles, and cat teasers.

 For more about cats, check out our last post, Indoor Cats.
 Dr. Curtis
Written by Valerie Curtis, DVM

Dr. Curtis received her undergraduate degree at UWSP and her doctorate of veterinary medicine at Purdue University. She has been in practice for over 10 years. Her knowledge, attention to detail, and compassion are integral to our practice here at Oakview.


Indoor Cats

Welcome to Oakview Veterinary Medical Center’s New Blog! This month’s theme is cats!

Please let us know if there are topics you would like to hear about! This month, Dr. Valerie Curtis will be discussing indoor cats and how to keep them happy! 

Our feline family members can be finicky creatures…one minute “play with me” and the next “don’t bother me, I’m getting my beauty sleep.” We put up with it all because we love them and they are excellent companions. My cats Zeike and Waldo are excellent foot warmers and great companions during a scary or dramatic movie. They are always in my lap offering security and warmth. 

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Cat:

1. Vibrissae is a technical term for whiskers, which have well innervated hair follicles allowing them to sense their surroundings, especially at night.
2. They are solitary animals, not pack animals.
3. They are actually marking you as theirs every time they rub their face on you.
4. You can train your cat.
5. They are a predator and need playtime to release their instinct to “pounce.”
6. Lillies and Poinsettias are 2 of the most common plants that are toxic to cats.
7. Around 6 months of age, kittens lose their baby teeth for adult teeth.
8. The two outer layers of a cat’s hair are called the guard hair and the awn hair.
9. Clowder is a term used to refer to a group of cats. 
10. Cats have 5 toes on their front paws and 4 toes on their back paws. If they have more than that, they are called polydactyl.

Do you know what the term “bunting” means associated with your cat? Has your feline friend ever head butted you? They seem happy and affectionate at the time so we assume they are just showing us love and playfulness, but it is a known cat behavior called bunting. When cats do this, they are actually depositing facial pheromones on the object, other animal, or person at the time. This indicates to them that the person or object in the environment is safe, demonstrating a level of trust.

Cat head bunting Oakview Pet Gazette Plover WI

Are dogs and cats the same when it comes to where to pet them? I know that from years of cat examinations that there is one place that I leave until last when performing a yearly physical exam. Can you guess? It is a spot that can turn a friendly feline into a hissing maniac– their belly! They seem to love a good chin scratch and especially a butt scratch, but many do not tolerate their belly being touched. And have you noticed that even when they flop down in front of your feet, and if you are tricked into petting their belly because it is face up and exposed, that they just latch on with all four legs! They GOT YA! My Waldo is notorious for this! I always warn unsuspecting visitors to beware.

Before we get going with ways to enrich your indoor cat’s life, there may be some problem areas that need to be addressed first. Seems like a perfect time to introduce one of our problem solvers!

Our Local Behavior Resource

I want you to meet Emily! In addition to this information online, Emily is a reliable local resource.  She is a certified Veterinary Technician here at Oakview Veterinary Medical Center who has a special interest and love for animal behavior. If you need help, please contact Oakview to schedule a consultation that can be conducted in person or on the phone. A few of the concerns she can assist with include, but are not limited to:

  • Inappropriate use of the litter box
  • Inappropriate scratching
  • Kittens play attacking your hands and legs
  • Inter-cat aggression
  • Guarding resources (food, toys, litter boxes, people, favorite locations like cat towers)

Come back in a few weeks and I will discuss all kinds of ways to enrich our indoor cat’s lives.

See you then!

Dr Curtis Oakview Pet Gazette Plover WI
Written by Valerie Curtis, DVM

Dr. Curtis received her undergraduate degree at UWSP and her doctorate of veterinary medicine at Purdue University. She has been in practice for over 10 years. Her knowledge, attention to detail, and compassion are integral to our practice here at Oakview.

Continue reading “Indoor Cats”

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: