This article originally appeared in Spring Guide 2022. Copies are available from The Clanton Advertiser’s office, 1109 Seventh Street N in Clanton.
By JOYANNA LOVE | Redaction boss
As spring brings warmer weather, the furry friends are ready to come out and play.
There are several things cat and dog owners should keep in mind to prevent their pets from contracting pest-borne illnesses while outside.
Marilyn Smith, office manager for Cox Veterinary Hospital, said that while heartworms are a year-round concern in Alabama, it’s especially concerning when mosquitoes start showing up on warmer nights. Mosquitoes transfer the worms to dogs.
“When the mosquitoes start to hatch again, heartworms are a big concern in this area,” Smith said.
Dogs can be tested once a year for worms and prevention medication is strongly recommended. Smith said a monthly prevention regiment is available that also deworms animals for stomach worms, if they have them.
“It’s very profitable,” Smith said.
Tick-borne diseases, such as Ehrlichia, are also a major concern in Chilton County. Smith said that Ehrlichia is similar to Lyme disease.
While tick-borne diseases are often only found when tested, Smith said some of the symptoms include joint pain, bleeding disorders, lethargy, depression and poor appetite.
If a tick attaches itself to the animal’s spinal cord, it can cause paralysis, Smith said. Treatment includes removing the tick and treating it with steroids.
Smith said testing for tick-borne diseases Ehrlichia, Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are part of the recommended annual heartworm test.
Dogs can be given one tablet and is recommended once a month to limit the time that fleas and ticks remain attached to the animal.
“Nothing will stop the tick from attaching to the dog, even with topicals, they may still attach…it usually takes a while for the tick to attach before it starts transmitting these diseases, so it helps prevent that. causing the tick not to attach for a long time,” Smith said.
The longer a tick is attached to the pet, the more likely it is to transmit disease. Smith said this broadcast can start in as little as four hours.
However, Smith said that because they self-groom, cats generally only have ticks near their ears.
It is recommended to check yourself and your pet for ticks after being in a wooded area in spring or summer.
A combination medication for flea and tick prevention is available for cats and dogs.
Preventing fleas can also help prevent other pet health problems
If a cat or dog eats a flea, it can cause tapeworms. Smith said that fleas are carriers of tapeworms.
Parvo can also be more common in the spring.
“That’s an intestinal virus that dogs get, especially when they’re not vaccinated,” Smith said. “It causes vomiting and diarrhoea, fever, dehydration and can be very deadly for puppies. We see a lot more shoots of that in the spring. It’s just a virus that’s in the environment.”
It is recommended that puppies be vaccinated against parvo at six weeks of age. Smith said the virus persists after an infected animal has been in the area.
Spring also brings concerns about pet injuries from rattlesnakes. A vaccine is available to lessen the effects of a bite and is recommended to be given in the spring.
“It helps lessen the severity of symptoms once they’re bitten,” Smith said. “It’s not going to stop a reaction completely once they’re bitten, but it does lessen the symptoms.”
The vaccine increases the animal’s chance of surviving the bite by decreasing side effects. “The first time you vaccinate, you vaccinate once and a booster 30 days later, then they recommend a once-a-year vaccine in the spring,” Smith said.
Obvious swelling is the main symptom of a snake bite. Smith said dogs often get their noses bitten off while investigating holes.
“It will be painful, they will be lethargic,” Smith said. “They need treatment immediately. The vaccine only helps lessen the symptoms.”
Cats are often quick enough to get away before a snake bites them.
Spring allergies can also be a cause for concern. Smith said medications are available to treat this without steroids.
Visiting the vet for preventative medication when the weather turns warmer goes a long way to ensuring that furry friends can enjoy the season.