Spring is here. Say goodbye to winter, get your four legged companion and go for an enjoyable hike. But wait; is your dog properly protected for a springtime outing?
The most common pest that your dog can pick up on a walk— or at home—is fleas. Infestation can be easily prevented (or eliminated) with a number of products currently available, from topical treatments to oral tablets.
Another pest you may encounter outdoors is mosquitoes, which can spread diseases, such as heartworm. Dogs with heartworm infections can develop often life-threatening problems over time. The worms grow in the heart and can migrate to other organs. In regions where the temperature is consistently above 57°F year-round, a prevention schedule is highly recommended. Your veterinarian can perform a simple heartworm test as a part of your dog’s annual check up and recommend the appropriate products for prevention.
Animals that share the wonderful outdoors, such as raccoons, coyotes and squirrels, can also transmit internal parasites. As a puppy, your dog was dewormed, but that doesn’t mean he has a life-long protection. He can also become infected with parasites later in life. Your veterinarian can test your dog’s stool during an annual exam and, if needed, provide treatment for him.
While some parasites can be a nuisance and a health risk to your dog, they can also affect you. One in particular is Leptospirosis. It is transmitted by a microscopic organism, Leptospira, and its toxins can affect kidneys and liver. The contaminated animal (small mammals, deer and even domestic stock) voids the bladder and spreads live Leptospira, which could come in contact with your dog. There is an optional vaccine available; however, your dog might have an adverse reaction to it. Therefore, you should discuss the pros and cons of the vaccine with your veterinarian. The best way to avoid Leptospirosis is limiting your dog’s access to contaminated water.
Another concern for both you and your dog is Lyme disease. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to pets and humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Lyme disease has a variety of symptoms and can be difficult to diagnose and treat. There is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs; check with your veterinarian about the risk of the disease in your area. It is also a good idea to use tick-repellant products, such as collars or topicals, that can prevent ticks from attaching to your dog. Don’t forget to check your dog after a walk for any ticks that might have hitched a ride.
There are a variety of products available to help protect your dog from parasites and pests. Some can combat multiple problems; for example, a product that kills fleas, can also prevent heartworm disease, and treat and control hookworm, roundworm and whipworms. Ask your veterinarian to help you select a product that will be best suited for your dog. Preventive care goes a long way.