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North Country pet owners should takes steps to protect against diseases spread by fleas, ticks, mosquitoes
By TONY BEANE, DVM
With flea, tick and mosquito season upon us we should be actively protecting ourselves and our pets from the diseases that can be spread by these hungry, biting insects.
Fleas can trigger your dog or cat to have a case of flea allergy dermatitis. Your pet may lick and chew itself raw overnight and you may face a pet with open, bloody sores in the morning.
Some animals are more sensitive to the flea bites and may show the signs I described, while other animals in the household may have the same number of fleas, but may not be particularly bothered by them….at the moment. Fleas can also carry tapeworms.
If your pet eats the flea he can get infected with this parasite. Fleas drink blood as their sole food source, so they can also cause anemia. This anemia is usually seen in very young animals or in animals that are already run down from something else.
Fleas can also spread the bacteria Yersinia pestis. This is the organism that causes the plague or the Black Death that was seen during the Middle Ages. This disease can still be seen in the southwest US where it is found sporadically in the local prairie dog population.
Fleas can go back and forth between, cats, dogs, rabbits, prairie dogs and humans as well as other species to spread blood borne illnesses.
Ticks can carry many diseases to our pets and to us. Lyme disease is one of the first diseases that come to mind living in the Northeast US.
There are many other diseases that they can carry including; Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis, Anaplasma and Erlichia as well as other diseases of domestic animals and humans. We recently discussed Lyme disease in this forum, so I will not go into detail about that disease today.
Mosquitos can also spread serious diseases to our pets and to us. Heartworm disease is one of the major concerns for our dogs and cats. It is a parasite that lives in the heart of domestic and wild dogs (wolves, coyotes, coydogs) and sometimes cats.
This worm can grow to be more than a foot long and can lead to severe heart failure and possibly death if untreated. This disease used to be rarely seen in northern New York. That is not the case any longer. We see dogs in northern New York with cases of Heartworm disease each year.
There are several preventatives on the market which must be used whenever there are active mosquitos. West Nile virus has been one of the most advertised mosquito borne diseases over the past few years, but we also see cases of EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalitis) in central and upstate New York. In other parts of the world mosquitos spread malaria as well as other types of encephalitis (infection of the brain).
There are very effective vaccines available for some of these diseases that I mentioned, but they need to be given before the animal is bitten by the infected mosquito. Some of the diseases require that monthly preventatives be given (Heartworm) or even daily (Malaria). Others require avoidance of the mosquito altogether (EEE).
In conclusion, I encourage people to undertake controls for fleas, ticks and mosquitos as well as the diseases that they may be carrying.
These controls may entail eliminating free standing water where mosquitos breed; to applying a topical monthly product to kill or repel these insects; to vaccinating your pet against Lyme disease; to giving a monthly preventative to kill Heartworm larvae that may have been injected into your pet by mosquitos; to avoiding the times of day and the places where these parasites are living and active.
Please visit or contact your veterinarian for more specifics in regard to your pets.
Tony Beane is Professor of Veterinary Science Technology at SUNY Canton and Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the Potsdam Humane Society, which strives to be a no-kill shelter where every healthy, adoptable animal taken in will be able to find a home.
Ticks pose Lyme disease threat for pets in North Country; products, vaccines available to prevent infection
By JESSICA SCILLIERI SMITH, DVM
Lyme disease is all too familiar to pet owners here in the North Country. Many families, whether they live in a town or in the country, have had the unpleasant task of pulling a tick off of either themselves or their pet.
But not everyone realizes that each of those ticks poses the threat of infectious disease.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterial spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by the deer tick Ixodes scapularis. In humans, those infected frequently develop a rash at the site of the tick bite and/or flu-like symptoms and have the potential to develop long term illness from the infection.
However, it can take weeks, months or even longer for your pet to develop any signs of the disease. Dogs frequently develop pain in their joints that can be seen as limping or difficulty moving and walking. Those with more severe infections can develop fevers, decreased appetite or even vomiting and diarrhea.
Infrequently, the infection can spread to the kidneys and result in renal failure. The spirochete does this by causing inflammation in the areas it is infecting.
As a pet owner, the first concern should be to prevent the infection. There are many good tick control products on the market that can be obtained through your veterinarian.
There are some that can be purchased over the counter, but those brands can sometimes contain active ingredients that can cause adverse reactions. Ticks are seen year round and not just in the “country,” so we recommend that you use these products year round, even if you live in town.
There are also Lyme disease vaccines on the market and you should speak with your veterinarian to determine if this preventative measure is appropriate for your pet.
Fortunately, in veterinary medicine, we have a very quick test that can be done to screen your pet for exposure to Lyme disease. A positive result on this test does not mean that your dog is actively infected and your veterinarian may recommend that additional blood work be done to accurately determine your dog’s status.
For those dogs that are infected, treatment is initiated and typically consists of a 30 day course of antibiotics. The majority of dogs with active infections and clinical disease will respond very well to antibiotics and feel significantly improved within 48-72 hours of starting the antibiotics.
However, while rare, dogs with kidney involvement may sustain irreversible damage. Your veterinarian may recommend further testing of the blood or urine to evaluate kidney function at the time of diagnosis in order to diagnose any kidney damage while creating a treatment plan.
Catching kidney damage early will help your veterinarian determine if there are additional medications that might be helpful in supporting the kidneys.
Lyme disease is very prevalent in the Northeast and Michigan/Wisconsin regions of the country. We should be aware of the risk to ourselves and to our pets.
Our rural location makes ticks a common problem, so prevention for yourself and your pet is paramount!
Jessica Scillieri Smith, DVM, Director of the Quality Milk Production Services for Cornell University, and is based in Canton. She wrote the article for the Potsdam Humane Society, which strives to be a no-kill shelter where every healthy, adoptable animal taken in will be able to find a home.
Pet owners need to be aware of poisoning potential of human medications, household items
By ANTHONY BEANE, DVM
As I sit and write this article everything is clean, white and peaceful outside. There is a fresh coating of snow and all looks well with the world….
In another part of the country the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is handling calls from (sometimes frantic) pet owners and veterinarians who have concerns about something that an animal has eaten. Some of the ingested items may have been intentionally given to the animal; possibly a human medication or a medication that was prescribed for another animal in the household. Other ingested items may be things that the animal may have found themselves and decided to eat.
One of the top items that animals have problems with are human medications. One Tylenol can be fatal to a cat. One ibuprofen can cause serious illness to a small dog. Some common antibiotics that humans take may be the incorrect strength for one of your pets. If you have an animal that is in need of pain medicine or an antibiotic for an illness, be sure to contact your veterinarian to see if he or she agrees with you, and to see what they would like you to treat your animal with.
Rat poison is something that many people use in the fall and winter when they notice that rats, mice, squirrels or chipmunks may have invaded their homes or camps. Rat poison is often found in a wafer or cracker formulation which rats eat readily…..and so do dogs!
Often you don’t realize that your animal has gotten into the rat poison until they start to act lethargic and weak and their gums get very pale as they bleed to death internally. It may be too late to get them to a veterinarian to get a blood transfusion and/or some vitamin K tablets to help them with clotting. Rat poison is tasty and is often carelessly placed in locations where dogs (and children) can get to it.
Antifreeze is used as a coolant in your cars radiator. In the winter it is easy to see where your leaky radiator may have leaked some of the fluorescent green antifreeze on the ground. This product is very toxic and will shut the kidneys down on anyone who drinks it. Even small amounts on the ground may be enough to kill a dog or a cat or even a wild animal that is curious and decides to taste it. It is very sweet tasting and animals will readily drink it if they find it. Recently, companies that make antifreeze have agreed to put a bittering agent in antifreeze. In the next year the new product will hopefully be on the market so that if it leaks on the ground animals will not drink it. It will take years to get all of the old product off the shelves and out of our cars, so the full impact will not be felt for a few years. If you have a leaky radiator please get it repaired.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to common poisonings. Remember to read instructions on medications and if in doubt call your veterinarians office before giving a product that was not specifically prescribed to that pet. I’ll talk about some other bad news items that our pets are given or get into in the coming months.
Tony Beane is Professor of Veterinary Science Technology at SUNY Canton and serves on the board of directors of the Potsdam Humane Society