Spring has passed, and we are in full blown summer mode. More than likely, you’ll be outside with your animals a heck of a lot more, which is great for you both. However, with the nicer weather comes a new set of dangers for your pup. We’ve already covered garden dangers, and little known, but serious, dangers such as foxtail grass, and we’re back for another safety tip that could have a major impact on your pets: parasites.
All of the parasites are commonly known; mosquitos, fleas, heartworms, and ticks aren’t strange to anyone. The problem is the lack of knowledge about these tiny terrors, both what harm they can cause, and the ways to prevent/treat infections and infestations. Well, it’s time to start changing that!
Chances are, you treat your dog for heartworms on a monthly basis. Sadly, many people do not. Heartworms are found in all 50 states, and reports of infection continue to rise. One of the most dangerous, and difficult to catch, parasites, heartworms prevent an animals’ heart from working, and can be fatal. They can live for years, growing up to a foot long and causing damage to other organs. Testing for heartworms is difficult, and expensive, so keeping an eye out for symptoms is the best way to protect your animals. Keep an eye out for persistent coughs, lethargy, easy fatigue (even after mild exercise), decreased appetite, and sudden weight loss. As time goes on, dogs can show swollen bellies, blockage of blood flow in the heart, and without quick intervention the infection is fatal.
Mosquitos are the carrier of heartworms, which means taking care to protect your friends from bites! Because their coats prevent most mosquito attacks, uncovered places are still vulnerable, mainly the ears and nose. These bite are as annoying to them as they are to us! Over scratching can lead to abrasions and infection, so keep them clean! The real danger is the transmission of heartworms. Since the bug spray you use while in the yard is a no-no for your pet, finding pet friendly sprays, or natural repellants that act as natural repellents, is key. Grooming is also important. Shaving your dog in the summer removes the primary buffer against bites, so make sure they don’t have exposed skin!
Some great ways to prevent mosquito infestations are:
- Removing sources of stagnant water around the house and lawn.
- Change your pets water bowls frequently.
- Avoid walking your dog in wet areas, including marshes, creeks, and small ponds.
- Use insect repellants with caution. Products with DEET are dangerous for your pets!
- Put your dog on a heartworm prevention program. If you have any questions on what you need to do for the program, talk to your vet.
- Keep your pets inside in the early morning and early evening, when mosquitoes are particularly active (this is good advice for you too!)
Fleas are, sadly, a ubiquitous threat to pets in the spring and summer. These nasty invaders spawn at breakneck speed, and can spread a number of diseases to both animal and human alike. They can range from a few nibbles on your dog to infestations so heavy that you can see fleas coating blankets and furniture (if you’re curious, Google at your own risk). The largest problem in dealing with fleas is attacking them throughout their life cycle. They can complete their life cycle within 14 days, meaning that flea treatments miss the majority of fleas. Treatments typically attack adult fleas, leaving larva and eggs to pick up where their parents left off. This can lead to a constant battle, and will cause an incredible amount of stress on both of you.
Treating your pet to take out the parasites in their fur is essential, but make sure you wash EVERYTHING. Both you pets bed and blankets, and your own. Use hot water, and make sure that any clothing that may have picked them up is also washed. Scrub couches and chairs that might have been laid on as well. Fleas are ridiculously resilient, so attacking the problem quickly is vital, and keeping up for a week or so after the infestation to assure it’s over is paramount. Luckily, there are many, many treatment options, just do your research!
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While prevention is the best medicine, you can never be too sure when your pets health is on the line. Make sure to pay close attention to their behavior, keep an eye out for ticks and fleas, and make sure you both stay safe, and itch free, this summer!
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