By Dr. Kim Cargill, DVM
It seems like perhaps we may be nearing the end of a very long and bitter cold winter. The snow is beginning to melt and the robins are returning. As temperatures begin to rise, our pets are able to spend more time outdoors. My pups Dakota and Zoe are ecstatic that I’m finally willing to brave the outdoors with them to take them on walks.
However, the robins are not the only spring creatures that are returning. Mosquitoes, fleas, ticks; and intestinal parasites (which are also a risk to human family members) are going to be on the rise as the weather gets warmer. This summer is looking to see particularly high levels of those parasites. Even though we strongly encourage that pet owners keep their pets on parasite protection year round, frequently there are lapses in that over the winter. Especially if your pet has been off preventatives the last several months, now is the time to re-start them. Many of these parasites are not only uncomfortable for your pets, but can spread disease with dire consequences.
Life threatening diseases such as heartworm (which is transmitted through mosquito bites), are on the rise in our area. Having grown up in the southern state of North Carolina, I witnessed firsthand the serious effects of this disease in my own pets who were not protected. Watching them succumb to heart failure from that disease is a horrible thing to go through on both the pet and the family members. As a veterinarian, I have also seen pets come in so sick that we are not able to help them. If we are able to catch the disease early enough, the treatment is painful, carries serious risks to the pet, and can be quite expensive. The tragedy in this is that it is a mostly preventable disease, and there are a lot of options available for prevention.
Another potentially preventable disease that we are seeing more and more of in our area is Lyme disease, which is transmitted through deer tick bites. While it is true that many dogs exposed to Lyme disease do not get sick, once a pet becomes clinically ill it can be very difficult to effectively treat, and in some cases can result in kidney failure and death. Since no method of protection will ever be 100% effective, we recommend using tick protection, in addition to vaccinating dogs that are at risk for tick exposure.
The great thing is, there are ways to protect your pets from many of these parasites with very few products. There are so many options available now, that the protection for your pet can be tailored to its individual needs. Not only will your pet benefit, but your human family will benefit as well.