They’re out there.
Ticks, fleas and mosquitoes are back in abundance in our region. Now is the time to protect our pets against these parasites and the serious diseases they can carry. It’s also a good time to check with your veterinarian about shots to prevent other serious diseases, such as rabies, that threaten our animals.
Prevention is our goal when it comes to protecting your animal’s health. If we can keep parasites away and guard against other serious ailments, it’s always better for the animal—and cheaper for the pet owner—than having to take remedial action. While veterinary science has great options for preventing against pet parasites and illnesses, it can be difficult to treat pets after they come down with serious ailments.
We talk a lot about ticks in this region, and for good reason. Our area is one of the most active for ticks, and they have become even more prevalent here in recent years.
The biggest concern with ticks, of course, is Lyme disease. While not all ticks carry Lyme disease, we don’t want to take chances. That’s why we tell our clients to protect their animals—and, by extension, themselves—by keeping live ticks off their pets with treatments that include topical medicines, preventative collars or oral chews.
Topical treatments, collars and chews won’t always keep ticks off dogs when they venture into high grass or the woods. But they are designed to kill ticks on your pet before they can do damage to your animal or to you. Remember, if our pets come into our houses—and especially if they get on our furniture or sleep on our beds—any live ticks they bring in also will be attracted to us. That’s why we want to kill them quickly with one of our tick treatments.
Likewise, fleas pose a danger to our households if they ride inside on our pets and aren’t killed. Flea treatments for dogs and cats include topical medicines, oral chews and collars. Many of the same products that protect our pets against ticks also will protect against fleas, which are dangerous because they bite and can carry tapeworms.
While humans can be bitten by fleas, we generally aren’t susceptible to the diseases they can carry. Our homes, however, can be difficult to rid of fleas once they get inside. As with ticks, the best approach is to keep them off our pets by killing them quickly as soon they land on our animals.
Mosquitoes are dangerous to dogs because they can carry heartworm disease, a potentially fatal ailment that is what it sounds like—infestation of the dog’s heart and lungs by a worm that can damage these vital organs.
Dogs should have a blood test before receiving heartworm treatment to be sure they are clear of the disease. If they are, most vets now suggest year-round treatment delivered through an oral chew.
At the same time you bring your dog or cat in for seasonal parasite protection, it’s also good to update their shots for canine and feline distemper and rabies. In most areas, including ours, a rabies shot is legally required for dogs and cats. We also have a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs and a shot to protect against kennel cough for dogs. Both are optional but worth considering.
Owning a pet brings great joy to the lives of most pet owners. But pet ownership also comes with a responsibility to ensure that our pets remain healthy and don’t pose a disease threat to humans. Spring is the time to make sure our animals are up to date on parasite protections and shots so they can be at their healthy best.
Dr. Laura Kiehnbaum is a veterinarian at PetCare of Duluth, 2701 W. Superior St., Suite 102, Duluth. You can reach her or ask questions for future columns at info@PetCareofDuluth.com or 218-461-4400. For more information about this subject go to PetCareofDuluth.com.