Spring is here, and that means along with the April showers and May flowers we get fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. These pests can pass on diseases that can be potentially life-threatening to pets. So it’s important to keep your pet’s vaccines updated and put a prevention program in place for fleas, ticks, and heartworm.
Annual vet check-ups and vaccinations
Annual visits to your vet for wellness checks can catch any health problems early and prevent further health issues. He/she will also administer vaccinations and booster shots for your pets that will help with prevention of some common and easily transmitted diseases.
There are several core vaccinations that your vet will recommend, at every life stage, for your pet. They may also recommend other vaccinations, considered non-core, based on other factors like exposure or travel.
Some of these vaccinations are administered annually, while others are given every two or three years. A few – like the bordatella vaccine – are administered every 6 months. Your vet will update these vaccinations at the wellness check, and will advise you if there are any you should add or discontinue.
At your regular check-up, inform your vet of any drastic changes in your pet like new behaviors that seem abnormal, or that can’t be explained by something simple – like an upset stomach that isn’t due to diet change, or a cough that doesn’t go away. Things like that could signal a possible parasite infection in the gut or heartworm. Which brings us to our next topic: preventing common vector-borne parasitic infections.
Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are both parasites. You’ll usually find them feeding on their hosts – cats, dogs, and sometimes humans. They like the warmth and humidity that spring brings. Fleas can live and lay eggs in dirt and carpets, and ticks lay eggs on certain plants. So it’s a good idea to keep your lawn and yard clear of brush and long grass. Vaccum frequently and remove the vaccum bag immediately from the home, so that the fleas don’t escape back indoors.
Talk to your vet about the best way to keep your pet protected from these parasites. There are several prevention options, from flea collars to oral treatments. For cats, there is also the option of an injection that offers protection for a longer term than an oral treatment or collar.
Fleas and ticks are well-known vectors. They transmit diseases to to both pets and humans like lyme and murine typhus. Fleas can also transmit parasites like tapeworm. Very young children are especially vulnerable to tapeworm and other flea-borne diseases. They tend to put their hands in their mouths when they play in dirt and on floors where fleas may be living or laying their eggs, thereby ingesting the flea or egg.
Your pet or child may not exhibit symptoms of disease right away. Incubation periods range anywhere from a week to a month after a bite or ingestion. It’s important to check your pet for fleas and ticks regularly, and especially after taking walks through brushy areas like hiking trails or tall grass, so that these pests don’t make their way into your home and infect your other pets or family members.
A dog or cat with a heavy flea infestation can develop anemia. This condition can potentially be fatal, if not treated right away. Anemia can cause an animal to waste away over a long enough period of time.
The CDC has more information on how to prevent fleas and ticks, and how to get rid of them.
Mosquitoes transmit worms called Dirofilaria. There are three main types of Dirofilariasis. In dogs, it’s called heartworm and caused by D. immitis. This parasite enters the bloodstream at the site of the mosquito bite. Then it lives, grows, and breeds in the blood vessels, heart, lungs, and other organs. Heartworm can be deadly, so it’s important to have your dog checked regularly by your vet. Preventatives are given monthly, bi-annually, or annually.
Prevention around the home
Some of the precautions you can take in and around your home include:
- cut back brush and keep plants well-pruned
- keep woodpiles away from the house
- level, fill in, or improve drainage around low spots in the yard where ponding occurs
- fill in any holes where water collects
- store empty containers in a dry area or turn them upside down so water doesn’t collect
- vaccum indoors frequently and remove the vaccum bag immediately to an outside trash bin
These steps are just some of the things you can do, in addition to regular vet visits, to protect your pets – and your family – from preventable diseases, and keep them happy and healthy.
For more information about vector-borne disease, consult your vet or contact the Jackson County Animal Protection Society.
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