As spring approaches and temperatures rise, people and their pets welcome the opportunity to get outdoors and get active. Outdoor activities benefit your pets as much as they benefit you. Walking, hiking, swimming, and exploring all help to keep your pet’s body strong and their brain stimulated.
While spring brings many healthy outdoor pastimes, the melting snow also reveals a few hazards for your furry companion. As the natural world wakes up, so do many pests that can make your pet sick. Fortunately, your veterinarian can offer various preventative solutions that will allow you and your pet to enjoy the outdoors safely.
“Lepto” is a bacterium that is spread in the urine of wildlife and other mammals. The organism can persist in warm, moist environments, particularly if it is sheltered from direct sunlight. Skunks, raccoons, and many rodents disburse Leptospira bacteria throughout urban and rural areas. Pets can be infected through contact with standing water and saturated soil. Leptospirosis can cause fever, lethargy, liver and kidney damage, and other severe illnesses, causing death. Fortunately, a vaccine can be given annually to protect dogs from leptospirosis. If you live in one of the many areas where lepto is endemic, this vaccine should be included in your yearly wellness care.
Ticks and Lyme Disease
Ticks are nasty little parasites that begin their life cycle in the spring. Tick nymphs are eager to feed and grow as soon as outdoor temperatures reach four degrees Celsius. They favour wooded or grassy areas but can even be picked up in urban backyards and parks. Ticks attach to the skin of pets and other mammals to suck blood for a period of hours to days. Their prolonged contact is the perfect agent to spread diseases like Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Tick territories are expanding throughout Canada. Conscientious pet owners should ask their veterinarians about tick prevention every spring. A Lyme disease vaccine is also available for dogs in high-risk areas.
Some pet owners can be less diligent about stooping and scooping through the winter months. The spring melt often reveals a lot of animal waste, leading to the risk of intestinal parasites. The eggs of roundworms, whipworms and coccidia can survive cold temperatures in feces and contaminated soil. Pets are exposed to these pathogens as they explore the environment. The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends twice-yearly fecal screening and monthly treatment with broad-spectrum parasite control medication for all adult pets. Puppies and kittens are dewormed more often. Your veterinarian can help you choose a parasite control program that is suitable for your pet and your location.
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that is very persistent in feces, contaminated soil, and porous surfaces. Springtime is often associated with an increase in parvovirus infection due to increased fecal contamination of the ground. “Parvo” causes severe-- sometimes deadly—vomiting, diarrhea, and immune suppression. Fortunately, most puppies are vaccinated as soon as possible against this dangerous virus. Until your puppy has completed their vaccine series, keep them away from unknown dogs and high-traffic outdoor spaces. Make sure your adult dog remains up to date on their core vaccines according to your vet’s recommendations.
Practice Safe Treks
Springtime is an excellent time to get out, exercise, and explore with your pet. Before you leash up, contact your veterinarian to ensure your pet has all the protection they need to take on the backyard and the backcountry.