The annoying plague of ticks

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By John Violette, DVM

Summer is finally upon us. Seems like it would never get here. The cold wet spring brought us the plague of ticks. None of us can remember such vast numbers of ticks on our dogs and on ourselves. They typically die down during the hot, dry summer months and return in the fall. Hopefully this is the case this summer and we can return to walking our dogs in the fields and forests of Granby. In the meantime, tuck your pant legs into your socks and give your dogs flea and tick preventatives. The newer oral meds are proving to be far superior to the topical variety in killing the ticks that attach to our dogs. Don’t forget to treat your cats, too. Outdoor cats are notorious for transporting the little blood-sucking parasites into the home.
Traveling with pets can present some interesting challenges if the pet owner is not prepared. Buckling up the dogs with a seatbelt harness makes good sense. Keeping a dog or cat in a sturdy crate is also recommended when in the car. Motion sickness can be an issue to some dogs and make your life miserable too. There is a great oral medication called Cerenia that is very effective in preventing nausea and vomiting. Some pets do better with travel when prescribed a mild tranquilizer by the veterinarian.
 Nobody wants to lose a pet when out of town. Keep leashes handy and remember that the extendable leashes are not allowed in some cities. Lots of dogs that would otherwise have minded their own business, will start an altercation at the end of a long leash. There are a lot of dogs that are bad actors out there who may want to grab your little dog and cause some severe damage.
Permanent Identifications such as microchips are the norm now and we see some happy reunions when the microchip is scanned and the owners are reunited with their pets. It is important to be aware of various beach regulations and campground rules. I have to remember to be ready with the plastic bag when walking the dog out of our rural setting. For the most part people love dogs and want to greet your pet. However many people just don’t like dogs and are fearful.  Many pets are fearful and feel crowded by too much attention. It is always a good idea to be extra careful especially on the road. Always ask first before approaching another dog on a leash especially if you have a dog.
Heat and humidity are among the biggest health risks that your pets face during the summer. Hyperthermia is common and can be life threatening. Dogs do not perspire to cool down. They regulate their body temperature by panting. Older dogs may develop a paralysis of the larynx that restricts air flow and diminishes cooling ability. These dogs are at greater risk of severe hyperthermia. Even young athletic dogs can overexert and eventually overheat. Having access to water for drinking (or wading) is the best remedy. Leaving a pet in a hot car for a just a few minutes can result in a tragic ending.
Family picnics can be great fun for you and your pets but dogs can overindulge even more than their owners. We see cases of “dietary indiscretion” in dogs very weekend. Vomiting and diarrhea is very common and many cases require a trip to the veterinary hospital for treatment and supportive care. Sometimes an x-ray is required to sort it all out. Either the dog feels fortunate to have generous handouts from a favorite relative or tips over the garbage and helps himself. Most cases can be easily avoided with a little common sense.
Summer is the season of “kennel cough.” This is the term for infectious tracheobronchitis. There are many causes for the highly contagious respiratory diseases, and we see them on a daily basis all summer long. It could be a virus (like the two types of canine influenza) or a bacteria (like bordetella). They all sound about the same with a loud, hacking cough that keeps the whole family up at night. Sometimes these cases can develop into pneumonia that is severe and can result in death. This scenario is rare but it is important to treat these coughing dogs with antibiotics. Cough suppressants may be necessary for everyone to get a good night’s sleep. Any dog that visits a kennel for boarding or even goes to “doggy daycare” should be vaccinated for these respiratory diseases. Most canine facilities require immunizations for boarders especially in the summer.
Cats seem to stay out of trouble with their feline sense of self preservation. They do love to sneak out and enjoy these warm summer evenings when the days are so long. This is of course when cat fights happen and the bite wounds present themselves a few days later. Keeping track of your kitty is a good idea during there summer months to prevent abscesses. Flea infestations tend to culminate at the end of the summer. A good topical is a must for any outdoor cat. There is a newer product called Bravecto that lasts for three months and kills tick too. A thorough deworming is also important after a season of hunting.
Enjoy the summer with your pets and stay safe!