It’s Spring Fever for Internal Parasites

Mark Twain said, “It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” The rising temperatures, sunshine, and warm breezes make us all feel good —we truly do have spring fever. However, the warm weather brings more than just flowers. It signals the beginning of parasite season for our pets, and these parasites can rob your pets of needed nutrition and cause serious organ disease. Biting insects become more active, and they do know what they want…warm bodies, so it is important to take precautions to prevent and treat and protect your pets from parasites.

Heartworm disease is a life-threatening disease that is spread by mosquito bites, and spring brings a resurgence of these disease carrying insects. Mosquito bites cause more than itchy bumps; they can actually threaten your pet’s life by transmitting a very serious infectious illness caused by parasites named Dirofilaria immitis, which, in their immature stage, are carried by mosquitoes. They are injected into your pet while the mosquito is feeding, and these immature worms migrate through the body, eventually reaching the heart and lungs, where, in about six months, can grow as long as a foot in length. Every time your pet is bitten by a mosquito, there is the possibility that the animal is exposed to heartworms.

Dogs with heartworm disease may cough, lose weight, be weak, have trouble breathing, collapse and die. A simple blood test can identify heartworm disease, and treatment is expensive and potentially risky, so It is much easier and safer to keep your pets on effective preventatives that are available from your veterinarian. Do not use over-the-counter products, as some are not safe.

At the same time as your dog is tested for heartworm, he should also be screened for intestinal parasites including tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms, and protozoan parasites such as giardia. These parasites rob your dog of nutrition and can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal bleeding. Testing is simple and cheap…just take a fecal sample in to be checked. A little prevention will go a long way to keeping your pets healthy and happy.

Fleas and ticks can be present year-round, but their populations tend to increase drastically in the spring time, and carry various diseases including Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fleas can also transmit diseases such as tapeworms, and by the time you see one flea, you can be sure that you are faced with an invasion!. Again prevention is better than cure!

Now back to spring fever, and, as Twain said, maybe you don’t quite know what you do want, but you can be sure your dog knows what she wants… your love, and maybe a homemade treat. Your dog’s “heart will ache” for these Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour, preferably whole wheat, but white is okay
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 ¼ cups peanut butter
  • ¾ cup water (may need a little more)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  1. Mix all ingredients together until they form a ball… using your hands is messy, but is the easiest method. If dough is too crumbly, add a bit more water.
  2. Break off small hunks and place on lightly greased baking sheet.
  3. Flatten with a fork (or your thumb) and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  4. It may take a few minutes longer, but watch that bottoms do not burn.

You can do it! Yes you can!

A few weeks ago, an editorial in one of the newspapers that share our Paw Prints really caught my eye….Paul Struck wrote, “If you want to feel good, volunteer. “ Roger Caras once stated, “Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe.  In return we give them the love we can spare, the time we can spare.  It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.” Animal lovers agree with that statement, but often are uncertain as to how they can improve the plight of underprivileged animals: “I feel so sorry for all the neglected, needy animals, but what could I possibly do?” One of the best ways is to volunteer!

By becoming a volunteer at a local shelter or rescue group is a great way to help our needy dogs. Shelters rarely have enough volunteers! In addition to walking, socializing, and providing basic training, volunteer opportunities may include adoption counseling and administrative support. Maybe you don’t have enough discretionary income in this tough economy to contribute money, and your life is too busy to visit the shelter on a regular basis. Keep in mind that there are many ways to help that may be better suited to your skills, interests, or time constraints.  Age isn’t a limitation either. Caela Kruger, an eleven year old girl from Aurelia, involved herself in a project which netted the TLC dogs a huge box of “good things.” Residents of the Good Samaritan Center and Otsego Place regularly bake dog biscuits…..anything that you do for a shelter or rescue group that they don’t have to pay someone else to do, results better care for the animals.

  • Writers, graphic artists, and photographers can help make fliers, information packets, or newsletters. Groomers can offer free or discounted services. Trainers are always needed to help with evaluating dogs or dealing with particular behavior problems.
  • Familiarize yourself with local and state ordinances and legislation relating to dog welfare, including vehicle safety, breed bans, and animal cruelty. Take the time and effort to write letters and e-mails to your local and state representatives expressing your views. Dog lovers in Iowa should check out Iowa Voters for Companion Animals at This group is an organization concerned about the welfare of companion animals, and advocate for better laws to protect them, and better enforcement of current laws. Their purpose is to “advance the humane and responsible treatment of companion animals through education and grassroots advocacy.” They lobby for changes to Iowa law to provide for greater protection of the thousands of dogs in commercial breeding facilities, or puppy mills, and they always have up-to-date information on legislation being considered at the state level. If you live outside of Iowa, do some research to find similar advocacy groups.
  • Have a party…..if you have a special occasion, you probably don’t really need gifts. How about asking everyone to bring a donation for your local shelter. Leashes, bowls, toys, and monetary gifts are always welcomed. If you want to involve your guests, make homemade treats.
  • Take every opportunity to let others know about the benefits and fulfillment of helping dogs in need.

Here’s a very easy, fun recipe for Peanut Butter Cheerio Balls. (Be sure to have enough of all the ingredients!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

  • ½ cup peanut butter,
  • 4 cups Cheerios,
  • 2 cups flour (can be either wheat or white),
  • 1 cup vegetable oil,
  • 4 eggs

Combine ingredients together. Mix thoroughly.

Form rounded teaspoons of the dough into balls, squeezing each ball in your hand to press it together to reduce crumbling during baking (and if it crumbles, that’s okay…the dogs will enjoy the crumbles too!) Bake on greased cookie sheets for 8 to 10 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown.

When cool, put in plastic baggies for delivery (these need to be refrigerated.) The main problem with this fun activity is that the humans may decide to eat a few themselves. This may be the most memorable party you can ever have!

Remember: if you want to feel good, volunteer! As Struck emphasized, “Volunteering will add far more to your spirit than it takes away from your calendar.”