IT’S FINALLY SPRING
“Oh, when the bugs come out, it’s spring
I see some crawl, I see some fly
I can’t count how many bugs go marching by,
but when the bugs come out, I know it’s spring,
and today I met a mosquito which wasn’t fun
She bit me here, she nipped me there
she even bit my bum.
But I had the last laugh
I squashed her with my thumb”
A humorous poem by Jan Allison, but parasite season is not humorous for our companion animals. As the warmer weather of spring brings the outdoors back to life with flowers and shrubs, bugs and parasites also make their presence known, meaning that flea and tick season has arrived, and mosquitoes are also out and ready to pass on heartworm disease to your dogs (and cats.) Other parasites include roundworms, hook worms and whip worms.
Fleas are nasty little creatures that travel rapidly through animal hair and are extremely tough to eliminate, and they are more than just an irritation. If a flea swallowed by your dog contains tapeworm larvae, the dog may get tapeworms, and there are also other diseases which are transmitted by fleas. The average life span of a flea is about six weeks, and in that time, just one flea can produce more than 600 eggs. If you see just one flea, you can be sure that there are many more present, so the smart thing to do is to treat your animal BEFORE just one tiny critter is found. Talk to your vet about the best product to use. We discourage the use of flea collars, which may kill the fleas only in the neck area, and we are also uncomfortable with the thought of children touching and breathing the chemicals in flea collars. Do not buy over-the-counter products…..some are simply not effective, and others are downright dangerous.
Ticks are most often found in wooded areas, tall grass, brush, or woodpiles. They move onto a host as it passes by and then attach to the skin by using the mouthparts to embed their heads so they can feed on the host’s blood. Ticks carry and transmit several diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever….Again prevention is much easier than treatment, and many products are effective against both fleas and ticks. Your vet can help you implement strategies to protect both humans and canines in your household from these unwelcome parasites.
Another aspect of your pet’s health care is protection from heartworm disease, a life-threatening illness that is spread by mosquito bites….every time your dog is bitten by a mosquito, she may be exposed to heartworms. Heartworms are identified using a simple blood test, and it is important to have your dog tested every spring. At the same time, it is a good idea to take in a fecal sample to be checked for tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, and protozoal parasites such as giardia and protozoa that can attack the gastrointestinal tract. We suggest a complete health check every spring. Hopefully your dog will get a clean bill of health, but if something suspicious is found, perhaps it can be treated in the early stages. Most dogs have teeth problems by the time they are three years old, and since tooth and gum disease can lead to more serious problems, be sure to include a dental checkup.
In spring, depending on your dog’s breed, more shedding can be expected, so daily brushing is encouraged. And remember: no outfit is complete without a few dog hairs!