Most Canadians have had their fill of the brutal winter. Especially dog owners who have braved the elements to keep their furry friends happy and healthy. There’s something nice about going out for a long walk with the warmth enveloping you and the sun beaming on your face. Our doggies just seem to have that extra bounce.
The weather shift does however bring new concerns for pet owners – vile little pests that can jeopardize our dogs’ well-being. Between fleas, ticks, and the approaching heartworm season concerns, our companions are at risk. But that’s only if you don’t take a few smart steps to keep them safe.
So despite the danger, you’re the one in control.
Fleas and Ticks
We love to maul our lovable pups with hugs and kisses. But nasty fleas and ticks want to be near them for a very different reason. That comfy fur is the perfect place for fleas and ticks to nestle down. And once they’re burrowing in there, the animal’s blood makes for an ideal meal. That can obviously lead to health issues for your dog, including allergic reactions from the pest’s saliva and more concerning, anemia and blood-borne illnesses.
Being outside more increases this risk, with ticks being a particular danger in tall grass and bushes. Once a dog brings fleas and ticks into your home, it can also mean your indoor cats can suffer. They can lay more eggs in the house, especially in humid conditions. And they can infect humans. You can often see them on your dog, typically around the head and neck, and ears.
Signs and symptoms to look for:
- Regular licking or scratching
- Scabs on the skin or hair loss
- Visible flea eggs (white specks) and droppings (dark specks) on the fur
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Trembling and seizures
- No appetite
It’s critical to wear gloves. With tweezers in hand, grab the tick by the head and pull up with steady even pressure. Do not twist or burst its’ body. When the tick is removed, wash the area on your pet, as well as your hands.
The key to keeping your dog (and cats) free from fleas and ticks is being proactive on several fronts.
- Invest in prescription oral tablets that can quickly kill fleas and ticks and have residual protection
- Wash bedding regularly, keep your carpets clean and your yard tidy, especially mowing the lawn
- Discuss the Lyme Disease vaccine for your dogs with your veterinarian
- Consider a spray or insect fogger (you and your pets have to leave while it’s in operation)
- Not all products will have the same effectiveness so find out more information from your vet clinic
Heartworm is a life-threatening condition in dogs. Transmitted by mosquitoes, a bite on your pet could result in the development of worms around the heart – and horrible consequences. Larvae travel through the infected dog’s bloodstream to major vessels and arteries, maturing into adult worms. The animal’s heart is stressed, and muscles are weakened, potentially resulting in the equivalent of human congestive heart failure.
The increases in temperatures play a significant role in the threat, specifically any time it reaches above 14 degrees Celsius, the point heartworm larvae require to be infective. When the thermometer consistently hits that number or above, both during the day and in the evening, the danger grows.
Changes in our climate mean that heartworm season has been extended, usually beginning in June but extending all the way to November. So a prevention plan to act first on our dogs’ behalf has never been more important.
Signs and Effects of Heartworm
- Shortness of breath
- Inability to exercise
If a dog is sick from heartworm, treatment can be both dangerous and costly. Fortunately, most dogs don’t get to this point because of the diligence of pet owners being proactive and good herd immunity for the pet population across the country.
Avoiding the danger is simple – visit your vet and set up a personal parasite prevention program for your animal. It can begin with an annual blood test to screen the dog for diseases, including Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis (a disease spread by ticks), Ehrlichia (a bacteria also spread by ticks), and heartworm disease. The next step is for the veterinarian to determine the best medication – a monthly pill taken throughout heartworm season – for your dog.
It’s that easy. The assurance of a good plan can help you and your dog take full advantage of all those beautiful warm days ahead of us.