Spring is here and this brings warmer weather and of course BUGS. There are several insects that we as dog owners should be concerned about. Some of these can transmit disease to our canine friends and others cause irritation to our pets and ourselves.
Ticks, mosquitoes and fleas are the hot topics this season, so let’s get started…………….
Ticks are efficient carriers of disease because, they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable length of time while feeding. Ticks wait for host animals on the tips of grasses and shrubs; they are not commonly found in trees. When the plant is brushed by a moving animal or person, the tick quickly lets go of the vegetation and climbs onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot jump or fly.
Why is a tick bite a concern for my dog?
Several species of ticks carry the Borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease. This bacterial infection is transmitted by ticks to dogs as well as other animals and humans. The risk of infection is greatest in the warmer months of the year from spring through autumn, when ticks are most active. Some dogs infected with Lyme disease do not show any signs of illness but the most common clinical sign is lameness involving one or more joints, with a small percentage of dogs developing more significant disease.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
We at Loyalist Veterinary Hospital recommend annual blood testing in April and May. Early detection and treatment of this disease will hopefully lessen the severity of the disease.
How do I protect my dog from Lyme disease?
1. Stop the tick- protect your dog from ticks by using a monthly tick repellent. Also be sure to check your dog for ticks after a day spent outdoors; remove any ticks you find promptly.
2. Vaccinate your dog against the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. We recommend to vaccinate in March prior to the arrival of warm spring days and inevitably ticks. The initial vaccine should be boosted in 2-3 weeks and then yearly after that.
3. Beware of changes in your dog’s behavior. Watch for signs of Lyme disease such as limping, fever. Lack of energy or loss of appetite.
4. Have your dog screened yearly
We all know the irritation that these insects cause to us, but did you know that they can also cause Heartworm disease in your canine friend! There were 11 reported positive cases of Heartworm in Hastings County in 2013!
Your dog can become infected with heartworm when they are bitten by an infected mosquito that is carrying immature worms called larvae. These parasites are long thin worms that live in the right side of the heart and pulmonary arteries. The risk of infection is greatest when mosquitoes are actively feeding which occurs in late spring to early autumn.
The concern that presents with a heartworm infection is many dogs will often show no clinical signs of disease in the early stages. It is only when the disease progresses and is quite advanced that we see signs of congestive heart failure.
How is Heartworm Disease diagnosed?
Like Lyme disease, Heartworm disease is diagnosed with a simple blood test. The Heartworm Antigen is detectable in a blood sample 6-7months after infection. Therefore our testing should occur in April and May.
How do I prevent Heartworm?
Several products are available on the market to prevent the transmission of Heartworm.
A word that makes all of us cringe…..successful flea control involves both eliminating fleas from the pets within your household and controlling fleas in your environment. Animals share the same fleas and can travel from one animal to another. It is therefore important that all pets in your home are on a flea preventive program.
There are several very effective products designed for monthly administration to your pets. These products will also help control the environment.