Can you smell it? That sweet smell that tells us that spring is here? I know I can. As we continue to inch forward into warmer weather, you may be finding yourself wanting to head outside more often, and Fido is most definitely feeling the same way.
There has been a lot of talk about ticks coming closer and closer to our city areas. Seeing how ticks can carry contagious diseases such as Lyme disease, most people have started taking the necessary precautions to protect Fido against these annoying critters. Unfortunately, with all this talk about ticks, we tend to forget that there are other things in our environment that could cause harm to our pets and to us.
The following are some examples of the things that we cannot necessarily see with the naked eye, and yet can cause our pets harm anyway.
1) Fleas: Although we can see adult fleas with our own two eyes, we cannot see their eggs or larvae. The flea cycle works by adult fleas feeding and reproducing on the animal, and the eggs fall to the ground infecting the environment around the animal, including your home. After a few days the eggs become larvae that will create a cocoon to protect themselves. This is known as the pupae stage, and they remain dormant until the environment is warm enough or until they feel the vibrations of passing victims. Once a host is present, the adult flea will emerge from the cocoon and will jump onto the animal (or human if the animal is nowhere to be found). This keeps the cycle going endlessly. Fleas will cause your pets to be very uncomfortable and scratch endlessly causing damage to the skin. In some cases, the infestation can be large enough that your pet can develop anemia! Fortunately, by treating your pet, you also treat the environment by stopping the cycle from continuing and you get rid of the pests you cannot see!
2) Intestinal Parasites: This is a big one since most people think that if they do not see a worm in the stool of their pet, then this automatically means they do not have any intestinal parasites. Unfortunately, intestinal parasites such as worms want to stay within the intestine because this is where they get their meal and can survive. In most cases, what is passed through the feces are the eggs of the parasite and these are not seen with the naked eye. You may notice some other signs of infection such as weight loss, dull coat, pot-bellied appearance, vomiting/diarrhea, and in severe cases the animal can present anemia. It is common, however, for animals not to show any symptoms and continue as if nothing was wrong. For these reasons, it is important to give Fido and Kitty a monthly de-wormer and a minimum of an annual stool test, even if you do not have any cause for concern.
3) Protozoa: Giardia and Isospora are the two most commonly seen protozoa in dogs. They are microscopic organisms that can be passed to humans and animals, usually by the route of fecal contamination. They can survive in the soil for a long time and can be transmitted by contaminated water. They may also be transmitted by food contamination, especially when the meat has not been thoroughly cooked, such as raw diets. Most animals may not show signs of being infected, but they can have diarrhea, dehydration, malabsorption/maldigestion, and in severe cases, death. Again, not something we can see with the naked eye, but regular stool analyses will greatly increase the chance of catching an infection. Avoiding raw diets and not letting your pets drink from puddles found in the soil/non-flowing streams will also greatly reduce the chance of them becoming infected.
As you can see, there are many threats out there that cannot be seen, and in some cases will not even cause symptoms! Remember, yearly stool analyses and monthly anti-parasitic medication can keep your beloved furry friends safe. Talk to your local veterinarian about the best options for your fur baby, and enjoy the upcoming warm weather worry free!
Chelsey Lough, Certified Animal Health Technician