Summer means camping, hiking, and enjoying the great outdoors! It also brings a handful of things to consider for your beloved pets. The following are a few important things to consider with the warm weather.
Hopefully you have all heard one of us discuss heartworm disease in an appointment, but here is a summary in case you forget the details! Heartworm disease is named very appropriately, as it is a worm that can truly live in a dog’s heart. It can be transmitted to cats as well, though much less commonly. It is spread by mosquitos, so even if your dog does not interact with unknown dogs it should still get prevention. Many of these mosquitos like to live in your house, so even if your dog remains mostly inside it should STILL get prevention! These worms can cause severe damage to the heart and lungs, and can grow to be a foot in length! Treatment for this disease can be very difficult, dangerous, and expensive. However, prevention is easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost 100% effective.
For every dog, we recommend a once a month preventative from June through November that kills any baby heartworms your dog may have been infected with before they become dangerous. This medication also helps to prevent other gastrointestinal parasites. In other states, year round prevention is necessary. A yearly blood test to detect heartworm disease is required before a prescription can be filled, to make sure that your pet has not been infected. These medications are generally very safe and it is very rare for a dog to have a negative side effect. There are multiple options, including oral flavored tablets and topical treatments.
There are many other different types of internal parasites that can infect our pets. Usually they live in the gastrointestinal tract and can cause signs such as vomiting and diarrhea. This can often be detected with a simple fecal exam, which are recommended yearly. Many of these parasites are zoonotic, meaning that humans can get them as well. Some of these parasites are prevented by your monthly heartworm preventative, but if you have any concerns with how your pet is doing a test should be performed just in case.
There are many different types of external parasites that can effect dogs and cats. Luckily they are much less common in Colorado! Fleas, ticks, lice, and mites are a handful of these. Monthly prevention is available for these parasites, and the majority of these consist of a topical liquid that is absorbed into the sebaceous glands in the skin. Most of the time we use it after we find the parasites to help kill the parasites and prevent further infestations. But these medications can be used every month even if you have not seen a parasite on your pet. Ticks are known to spread other diseases, so if you notice one it should be removed right away.
In the state of Colorado we have one main rattlesnake, the Prairie Rattlesnake. Luckily for us, it is generally a wuss as far as rattlesnake goes. 99% of dogs survive their bite wounds, but 100% of dogs feel very ill after being bitten. The majority of rattlesnake bites are in the front range foothills, especially on North Table Mountain, South Table Mountain, and Green Mountain. Keep your dogs leashed in these areas and stay on trails to avoid rattlesnakes. If you see one, give it a wide berth and it will likely leave you completely alone.
Signs of a rattlesnake bite include extreme swelling and pain in the affected area. Often you will see two puncture wounds. If your dog is bitten, it should be seen by a veterinarian right away! As mentioned, these dogs are extremely painful, often in shock, and can have some severe changes in their ability to clot blood. If they are bitten on the nose or throat, the severe swelling can affect their ability to breath. It will be recommended that they are hospitalized for intravenous fluids, pain medicine, and possibly antivenin. Most dogs are much improved in a day or two without severe complications.
Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterial infection that can be carried potentially by any mammal, including wildlife. It can be transmitted to your pet through contaminated water, soil, or by coming in contact with the animal itself. It is more common in the summer, though can be contracted all year long. This disease can be very serious, as it can cause detrimental damage to the liver and kidneys and can potentially be fatal. This disease is also zoonotic, meaning it can be spread to people. Luckily, there is a vaccine for this disease that is quite effective! We are seeing more and more of this disease in Colorado and at this time recommend that every dog, even those that do not spend very much time outside, be vaccinated for it. Generally this vaccine is given apart from other vaccines, due to a slightly higher risk of vaccine reactions.
Heat stroke can be very serious and can affect your pet very quickly. Remember, your dog is wearing a permanent fur coat! If you’re going to take them out for a run or a hike, do it during the cooler times of day or head into the mountains. If it feels at all warm outside, please do not leave them in your car! Your car can easily become 20 degrees warmer than the temperature outside, and can put your pet at risk. Dogs that are brachycephalic (have shorter noses) such as bulldogs, boxers, and pugs, are at a higher risk of being effected by the heat. If your dog seems very hot, try to find a body of water to let them submerge and cool off. If they are lethargic or their gums are very bright or very pale, you should seek medical attention right away as this can be life threatening.
Many people believe that plague is a disease of the past, but it actually still exists in some southwestern states, including Colorado. It is a bacterial infection spread by fleas who live on rodents, namely prairie dogs. Pets can come in contact with this disease by hunting or interacting with prairie dogs, so it is often seen in cats who spend a large amount of time outside. This disease can be very serious, and can affect the lungs, lymph nodes, and blood stream. It can also be spread to people. The easiest way to prevent your pet from contracting this disease is to keep them inside. If your pet spends time outside unsupervised, and is showing any signs of lethargy, breathing heavy, or just not doing well, they should see a veterinarian right away. This disease can be cured with antibiotics if caught early enough but can be fatal if left undetected.
Rabbit fever is a disease that is new to Colorado. It is also known as Tularemia, and has already been diagnosed in multiple people and dogs this summer in Jefferson County. It is a bacterial infection that is spread by certain types of ticks that live on rabbits. This disease can cause a fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and can damage many internal organs. It can also be spread to people. Keeping your pets inside and away from rabbits is the best way to prevent this disease. This disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough but can be life threatening.
Julia Katzenbach, DVM