Summer brings outdoor fun, warm weather and a closer relationship with Mother Nature and all her offspring — including pests that can affect your dog’s health.
This time of year, vets see more dogs who are eating their normal fare but experiencing weight loss. This could be caused by a lot of things, but any dog who eats what he normally eats and suddenly starts losing weight needs to see a veterinarian. Among other things, this is a symptom of heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis), which is caused by a parasitic worm that infests the pulmonary arteries after the dog has been bitten by a mosquito that has previously bitten an infected dog. The disease is life threatening and must be treated promptly.
Other signs of an infected dog include coughing after physical exertion and labored breathing. You could protect your dog by avoiding exposure to mosquitoes, but that’s impossible if he goes outside when mosquitoes are in season. So the best protection is preventive medication for heartworm, which can only be administered if your dog has not been infected.
Unfortunately, there is no protection against the West Nile virus, also carried by the pesky mosquito. Keep your dog indoors at sunset and during the early evening hours when those disease-laden pests are hunting for blood.
Puppies abound this time of year, and they start their basic vaccinations at about 6 to 8 weeks of age. Follow-ups continue every four to six weeks until the pup reaches about 4 months of age. Until that time, your pup isn’t protected from some of the more prominent and serious diseases — distemper and parvovirus — and it’s best to keep him out of dog parks and group obedience classes until he is.
Internal and external parasites are big problems, especially now. Beware of fleas, ticks, flies and lice, all of which carry disease and cause serious allergic reactions. Fleas also transmit internal parasites.
What can you do about these pests?
Inspect your dog regularly. Look beneath the fur to the skin for signs of fleas and for ticks. Check him head to toe. Fleas are sneaky little buggers, and there is more than one variety. Some prefer ears. Others lurk in armpits. And when you come looking for them, they scatter so rapidly that you’ll miss them if you are not diligent. If your dog is scratching frantically or digging into his skin ferociously with his teeth, you can be sure you have a problem that needs tending. There are many types of flea protection, so ask your veterinarian which kind is best for your dog.
Embedded ticks must be removed immediately and disposed of, and this is no easy task. You may want your vet to handle this. Ticks cause blood loss and eventual anemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other blood diseases; the most common today is Lyme disease.
Once any and all pests have been removed from your dog, treat your home with a thorough cleaning and the use of an appropriate, nontoxic pesticide. Disinfect all areas, including your dog’s bedding. If your home is infested, a professional exterminator may be the best choice.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com, and visit him at http://www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.