Watch out for seasonal health concerns that could affect your pet |

Watch out for seasonal health concerns that could affect your pet

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

It’s in the air — a joyful, hopeful feel of spring and new life on the way, along with an awakening of bugs and bacteria. Yes, there is a “flu season” for pets, too. Local veterinarians are seeing an outbreak of Bordatella, a form of “kennel cough.” Like a cold or the flu, this illness is highly contagious and if ignored can lead to cat and dog pneumonia, which can be fatal. Before heading out to the dog park or greeting strange dogs at the beach or on the trail, check your pet’s shot records. In addition, researchers at Oregon State and Iowa State Universities are asking pet owners not to cuddle a pet when owners have human flu. There appears to be a “reverse zoonosis” in the HiNi flue strain. With constant virus mutations, people are passing disease to animals.

Vaccination Update

Bordatella is an annual vaccine, unlike some which are scheduled every two or three years. The syndrome most commonly occurs when pets are exposed to crowded, and/or poorly ventilated conditions found in many kennels and other factors such as cold temperatures, dust, cigarette smoke, and travel-induced stress, and frequent exposure at dog parks. Any breed may develop kennel cough but flat-nosed breeds, such as pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and Shih Tzus, are at increased risk. The most common kennel cough symptoms in dogs and cats include a dry hacking or honking cough, sometimes followed by retching. Other symptoms may include nasal discharge, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, depression, and fever.

Weight Watcher Alert

Another pet tune up addresses winter weight gain. Check your pet’s waistline. If you can’t see it and can barely feel ribs under the fat layer, it’s time to scope out your favorite walks to for safety and dryness, and get back in the daily walks habit.

Parasitic Disease Prevention

Ticks and fleas have been waiting all winter for a warm body to come along. While fleas don’t survive in Tahoe, ticks do. Again, if vacation plans include pets, now is the time to think about prevention for areas where ticks and fleas thrive.

March is Heartworm Prevention Month

Mosquitos transmit a worm that causes the terrible Heartworm disease. Not so prevalent at Tahoe, it’s carried by infected pets from endemic areas, and can be transmitted when Tahoe pets travel. Pets need a heartworm test at least every two years, even if they are on heartworm preventative, a prescription medicine. Collies are sensitive to the ingredient ivermectin so owners must pay close attention to type of preventatives selected and the dose given. Cats also are susceptible to Heartworm disease. Symptoms of Heartworm disease include coughing, lack of energy, weight loss, fainting cats develop asthma-like symptoms. Their hearts enlarge. Dogs suffer heart failure.

Unlike Heartworms, worms that are internal parasites drain pets of blood and nutrients. They are transmitted in the feces of other animals, in yards, on the sidewalk or trail, and at the dog park or by eating fleas, and prey such as rodents and snails. Puppies and kittens get worms from their mother’s milk. Symptoms include weight loss, dull coat, swollen belly, visible worms in the stool and anemia. Dogs commonly get hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. Cats commonly get roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms, but not whipworms. A fecal test as part of a routine annual exam reveals the presence of parasites.

Travel Preparations

Some boarding kennels and doggie day care facilities require proof of Bordatella as recent as two weeks prior to checking in, along with other standard vaccinations. The Sacramento and other areas require proof of fecal test for Giardia as well. Pets without proof are turned away. Always required anywhere are current ID Tags and microchip registration – common sense, life saving practices for every day, and especially when pets travel.

To see maps of areas where pet parasites and diseases are endemic before you travel, go to, the fascinating and informative website of the Companion Animal Parasite Council. Climate change has changed the exposure risks for animals as well as humans.

Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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