Warmer weather brings more pet problems

Published 9:45 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

DR. EDDIE HIGHT, D.V.M., smiles after administering a pill to Elvis, a German shorthair pointer, whose owner is Larry Smith of Southwind Plantation.

Pet owners can expect to have a lot more aggravation from fleas, ticks and gnats this year.

Dr. Eddie Hight, of Bryan and Hight Veterinary Clinic, said that the clinic is already seeing a lot more flea infestations.

“We don’t usually see it this bad this early,” he said. “Cold weather helps hold them back, but this winter was so mild. The earlier arrival of hot weather this spring has intensified and sped up the growth of fleas.”

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Hight said pet owners need to be concerned about fleas, because infestations can cause anemia and skin allergies, hot spots, hair loss and sores on the skin, plus the pets (and owners) are miserable from the incessant scratching.

For prevention, he recommends the use of a monthly flea medication. The treatment he sees working best now is the oral flea tablet, which seems to work faster and better. The topical applications have been used so much that he is concerned the fleas may be getting resistant to it. For those dog owners who have been using topicals and are beginning to have fleas, he recommends they switch to the pills. He indicates the cost is about the same for both.

The one drawback of the pills is that they are for dogs only at this time. For cats, the only recommended effective remedy remains the topical application.

As for ticks, Hight said they don’t see that many in this area, but when they do encounter one they use a topical medication that helps kill the tick. Pet owners should be cautious in removing ticks from their pets themselves. He recommends spraying it with a flea spray that will kill it and make it drop off, but the veterinary clinic also has a small plastic tool shaped like a crow bar they recommend using.

“Don’t just snatch it off,” he said. “It could leave the head there and that can become infected.”

He also cautions the thorough washing of hands after handling a tick as there is a danger of the pet owner becoming infected with Lyme disease carried by ticks.

Another problem this spring is the proliferation of mosquitoes. The mosquitoes can transmit heartworms from an infected dog into another dog the mosquito bites.

In the early stages of heartworm, there are few discernible symptoms, but as the disease progresses the dog will develop a persistent cough, may spit up blood, have heavy breathing and tire easier. In advanced cases, there is a swelling of the abdomen, and when the liver is involved, there is jaundice.

Treatment is given in the earlier stages and involves about four weeks of intensive treatment, which can in itself be risky. The dogs are hospitalized for the first few days in order to be treated and observed.

“No matter what stage of the infestation, there is always a risk involved in the treatment,” said Hight, who added the treatments can also be expensive.

Again, prevention is the way to go. Veterinarians recommend puppies be placed on monthly prevention medication at three months of age. For dogs older than 6 months, they do heartworm exams, and if findings are negative they start the dogs on preventative medications. The recommended medication is the chewable Heartguard cube. There is also a liquid treatment, but dogs seem to find the chewable cube more palatable, Hight said. This too, must be given every 30 days. Annual testing is recommended.

Hight said cats too can also get heartworms, but it is not as prevalent as in dogs.

Following the advice of the veterinarian can help your pet and you both have a more pleasant summer.