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Summer is here and we all love to be outside as much as possible. Our dogs love to play outside too. Along with beautiful weather, summer brings outdoor barbeques, vacation and the pests that like to snack on us and our canine companions. These blood sucking creatures are everywhere we like be. Ticks, mosquitoes and Fleas can cause serious health problems for our us and especially for our dogs.
The deer tick, also known as the black legged tick can infect your dog with Lyme disease. The tick carries a bacteria that infects the dog when it bites and starts feeding. Although Lyme disease was first diagnosed in 1975 and named for the town of Lyme, Connecticut, it was first documented in a medical journal in 1847. Although Lyme disease has been found in all 50 states, it is most prevalent in the Northeast along the coastal states.
The deer tick is so small, it is almost impossible to see on your dog. So, how do you know if your dog has this bacterial illness? The symptoms of the disease in dogs are the same as they are in humans. This first shows itself as joint pain. You will notice you dog going from his usual active self one day, to limping a day or two later. He will most likely be favoring one of his front paws. This joint pain can involve the whole body. Your dog may have a fever and lose his appetite.
The sooner you get him to the vet the better. If not treated, Lyme disease can cause kidney damage, nerve damage or heart problems. Lyme disease can be detected by a blood test and is treated with a long course of antibiotics. You can protect your dog from this tick borne illness with vaccines and prevention medications available from your veterinarian.
Another common summertime pest that can make your pooch sick is the mosquito. Mosquitoes carry larvae of the heartworm, which they pick up when they bite an infected animal. The mosquito then bites your dog and transfers the larvae him (or her). It takes about 3 months for the larvae or microfilaraie to get through the bloodstream to the heart where they mature and then mate. This process can take 6-7 months.
Dogs can have several hundred of the heartworms in their heart and blood vessels if they do not receive treatment. The worms obstruct the blood flow through the heart and vessels to the lungs. Dogs may not show symptoms of infection, but if they do, they will have decreased appetite and weight loss, and have no energy. As the infection becomes worse, you may notice the dog will have decreased endurance during play or exercise. The dog could also show a pot bellied look from fluid in the abdomen.
There are blood tests available to test for heartworms and if the test is positive, there is a medication that must be injected several times over several months. There is a chance of blood clots so there is some risk in the treatment. If the infection is severe, the worms may need to be removed by surgery.
The best thing you can do for your dog is to give him a regular heartworm prevention medication. After your dog is tested and determined to be negative, he should be started on a year round monthly dose of the preventative prescribed by your vet.
Another common pest that we are all familiar with is the flea. Fleas become very active in the summer months and it is almost certain your pooch will end up bringing these nasty pests into your home. The only way to protect your dog and your family from these biting blood suckers is to treat your dog with a flea control product. There are several types of flea control products available. The most common and longest lasting is the topical liquid applied monthly. There are also, sprays, powders, dips and shampoos. When you check your dog for Fleas, you may not see any, but you will probably see the flea dirt.
Fleas will make your dog uncomfortable, but if the dog is allergic to the flea saliva, he can have severe itching, hair loss, red lesions or even ulcers. Severely infected dogs can become anemic from the blood loss and young puppies can die from severe, untreated flea infestation.
There are many good products available from your veterinarian to protect your dog and your family from these common summer pests. Prevention is the absolute best thing you can do to care for your canine family member during these fun filled summer days.