Summer health and travel check for pets
Special to the Tribune
Summer has arrived and everyone wants to be in the great outdoors. Travel plans are being made with pets included. Now’s the time for an annual assessment, perhaps including a wellness exam at the vet. Are vaccinations up to date? Will pet travel include adventures out of the Tahoe basin? What exposure will pets have to parasites, extended time in the sun, socialization with strange pets and confrontation with wildlife? Has a pet aged and is less able to keep up with the family? Will special accommodations need to be made?
Extra home grooming is a good summer routine to adopt to regularly inspect for cuts and insect bites. Swimming, bathing, and rolling in wet grass creates moist skin which, if broken, can invite infection. If your cat or dog sunbathes upside down, exposing the tummy and inner thighs, they are susceptible to skin cancer, just like people. The ears and noses of white dogs and cats can develop melanomas.
While fleas do not survive in Tahoe due to the limited freeze-free periods, they can be picked up readily when out of the basin. Deer ticks also are uncommon here, but they lie in wait in other regions. In addition to itching misery, which can lead to “hot spots” and infections, parasites can pass on tapeworm and lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian for preventative medication advice before you leave the relatively safe Tahoe region. If exposed, be aware that canine symptoms of lyme disease include arthritis and lameness due to pain in the joints, along with fever, loss of appetite, and loss of energy.
Heartworm, carried by particular kinds of mosquitos, remains rare in Tahoe. However, reports of mosquito carriers are starting to come in from the Carson Valley and the highest number of incidents of heartworm disease reported in California is in the Placerville, Grass Valley and Auburn areas. Testing and monthly preventative medication are critical if your pet goes anywhere out of the Tahoe basin. Other high-incidence areas are Sacramento, the Bay Area, Southern California, and Mexico. The mosquitoes spread the disease when they bite pets. The preventative treatment is a tasty wafer eaten by the pet monthly. To monitor heartworm-free status, blood tests are recommended every other year. Cats also are susceptible to heartworm.
Other vaccines to consider based on the pet’s lifestyle are for feline leukemia and canine kennel cough, which may be required if pets are going to pet care or boarding facilities, kennels, dog parks, events and shows where they will make contact with animals from all over the country. A vaccine was recently developed to prevent Giardia, which both pets and people pick up when drinking from streams and lakes. However, it is not yet proven safe or necessary for most pets.
Rattlesnakes are being reported more often in areas like Desolation Wilderness. It is expected that Nevada veterinarians will see a rash of snake bites this year. A pre-bite vaccine is available to help a dog survive longer while getting to a veterinarian for treatment. The likelihood of being bitten determines the need for the lifesaving vaccine. The supply is usually limited.
Pets crossing state borders, with the exception of guide dogs, are required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have a rabies immunization and valid health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian within 30 days of travel. Travel to foreign countries, including Canada and Mexico, should be researched for current regulations and for coming back into the United States. Hawaii has strict pet travel health policies.
In recent years it has been accepted that vaccination plans should be individualized for each cat and dog. Vaccines are rated as “core” or “non-core.” The fact remains that modern veterinary preventatives, including vaccines and treatments, do provide for longer, healthier pet lifetimes. Being realistic about a pet’s exposure and consulting with a veterinarian are key to assuring happy trails for all.
– Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.
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