Summer means warm weather, blue skies and cool breezes – and it’s also a time our pets face significant health threats. Here are my five favorite tips to keep your pet safe and healthy during summer.
1) Tackle Ticks and Defeat Fleas. With warmer temps come more ticks and fleas, which can infect your pet with devastating diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, cytauxzoonosis (cats), babesiosis, anaplasmosis and more! There’s even a poorly understood condition called “tick paralysis” that causes, well, paralysis and even death. Fleas cause horrible allergies in dogs and cats, blood-loss anemia (especially in kittens and puppies) and the plague. Yes, the plague still exists in the U.S., especially the southwest U.S. I recommend year-round flea and tick preventives for most pets.
2) Vaccinations. As our pets become more active and venture outside, they’re more likely to encounter other animals. If you frequent parks, lakes or beaches, groomers or boarding facilities, it’s important to keep your pet’s vaccines updated. I’m convinced one of the reasons veterinarians diagnose more infectious diseases, particularly upper respiratory infections, in the spring and summer is simply because our dogs and cats congregate with other pets this time of year (we also see a similar spike around the holidays due to boarding and travel). This is also a good time to ensure your pet is protected against rabies.
3) Avoiding Strains, Sprains and Tears. The setup is straightforward: A dog is less active over the long, cold winter. Dog gains a few extra pounds. Spring and summer mean running, romping, jumping and pouncing. All that extra stress, weight and inactivity add up to injury. Take it easy and gradually increase duration and intensity of exercise and playtime for a couple of weeks and cut back on the snacks. If you observe any limping, weakness or gimpy gait, see your vet at once.
4) Prevent Heartworm and Internal Parasites. As your pets explore outdoors, they’re more likely to encounter mosquitoes carrying deadly heartworm disease and contaminated soil and water with infectious internal parasites. All dogs and cats in North America should be on a monthly heartworm and internal parasite preventive year-round. Period. Don’t forget roundworms and hookworms are also contagious to humans, especially the young and old.
5) Fights and Bites. Spring and summer mean reproduction in the animal world. Vying for a mate means fighting. This is when I treat the most cat bite abscesses and other injuries. It’s also the time I see more dogs struck by cars and other injuries due to roaming. Keep your pet supervised and be aware that feral animals may enter your yard, regardless of fences. I recently treated a dog whose owner thought he was sending his dog outside to scare off an intruder. Turns out it was a couple of angry raccoons. The dog lost and paid for it with over 70 stitches and a couple of surgical drains.
With a little planning and commonsense, you can make summer safe for your pet. Get out and enjoy the sunshine with your four-legged friend!
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