Keeping your pets safe this summer |

Keeping your pets safe this summer

Niki Congero
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Mewtoo is in desperate need of a home. He was abandon at a storage unit about a year ago and has been at the shelter ever since. He needs a pet-free, child-free home with someone who can be patient and loving. His adoption fee has been paid. Come visit Mewtoo at The El Dorado County Animal Services, 530-573-7925. For spay-neuter services and other support, call the Lake Tahoe Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 530-542-2857.
Courtesy Photo |

Summer is officially here, bringing warm weather, blue skies and cool breezes. This is also a time our pets face additional health threats. Here are five tips to keep your pet safe and healthy during summer:

Tackle ticks and defeat fleas. With warmer temperatures come more ticks and fleas, which can infect your pet with devastating diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, cytauxzoonosis, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and more. There’s even a poorly understood condition called “tick paralysis” that causes, well, paralysis and even death. Fleas cause horrible allergies in dogs and cats, blood-loss anemia (especially in kittens and puppies) and the plague. Yes, the plague still exists in the U.S.; a flea found on a yellow chipmunk in South Lake Tahoe’s Fallen Leaf Lake area has tested positive for plague. That being said, don’t panic.

Be smart and take precautions. Do not let your dog off leash so it can chase chipmunks, squirrels and mice! This is where the danger lies — the plague-carryng fleas only live on warm hosts (rodents that are alive) and can transfer to pets if your they come into contact with the rodent. Symptoms associated with the plague will include painfully swollen lymph nodes, fever, inflammation, depression, vomiting, dehydration, diarrhea, enlarged tonsils and anorexia. The head and neck area will swell considerably, and should the dog survive, its lymph nodes may abscess and then rupture and drain. Other symptoms include discharge from the eyes, mouth ulcers and a loss of appetite, with visible weight loss being evident. Coma may follow. The normal incubation period for bubonic plague is between two and seven days after the dog has been bitten. If you have been in an area that is suspected of plague being present and your pup is showing any symptoms, take it to the vet immediately. In general, fleas are not a problem for our pets in Tahoe because the temperature is too cold at night for them to survive. That being said, friends with pets who come visit can bring up fleas, which can move in. They will not last long, however, due to our evening temperatures, but can still cause flea diseases until they are gone.

Vaccinations. As our pets become more active and venture outside, they’re more likely to encounter other animals. If you frequent parks, lakes or beaches, groomers or boarding facilities, it’s important to keep your pet’s vaccines updated. This is also a good time to ensure your pet is protected against rabies and Parvo.

Avoiding strains, sprains and tears. The setup is straightforward: A dog is less active over the long, cold winter. The dog gains a few extra pounds. Spring and summer mean running, romping, jumping and pouncing. All that extra stress, weight and inactivity adds up to injury. Take it easy and gradually increase duration and intensity of exercise and playtime for a couple of weeks and cut back on the snacks. If you observe any limping, weakness or gimpy gait, see your vet at once.

Prevent heartworm and internal parasites. As your pets explore outdoors, they’re more likely to encounter mosquitoes carrying deadly heartworm disease, plus contaminated soil and water with infectious internal parasites. All dogs and cats in North America should be on a monthly heartworm and internal parasite preventive year-round — period. Don’t forget that roundworms and hookworms are also contagious to humans, especially the young and old.

Fights and bites. Spring and summer means reproduction in the animal world. Vying for a mate means fighting. It’s also the time more dogs struck by cars and other injuries due to roaming. Keep your pet supervised and be aware that feral animals may enter your yard, regardless of fences.

With a little planning and commonsense, you can make summer safe for your pet. Get out and enjoy the sunshine with your four-legged friend.


It’s time again to submit your furry family member’s photos to the Lake Tahoe Humane Society’s Calendar/Card photo contest. Just go to and click on the calendar link, scroll to bottom of the page, fill out the form and submit your image. It is a fun way to support our Lake Tahoe Humane Society and help them help local animals in need.

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via email to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit SocietySPCA, or

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