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Don’t Let Summer Bug You

By David Henry, DVM, Northwood Veterinary Hospital, Springfield, OH

Ben, the German Shepherd, keeping cool in the shade

How many of you think that all you do during the summer is mow yard, trim shrubs, and weed your flower beds? With warm weather and rain, conditions are perfect for the plant world. So also are the conditions for all the pests in the bug world.

Let’s narrow our focus to the pests that “bug” us: fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitoes. The whole secret to NOT having fleas and ticks to be a problem is to start early (April or May) with a prevention program. Keep your yard well mowed and sprayed. Keep kennels cleaned, disinfected, and sprayed.

As for your pets, in the last two to three years the break through in technology in the control and prevention of fleas and ticks has afforded nearly 100% relief from fleas and ticks. Products like ‘Program’ and ‘Sentinel’ which prevent fleas by inhibiting egg and larval development 99% for up to 32 days or products that kill fleas such as ‘Advantage’ or ‘Frontline’ at a nearly 99% rate for 30 days are available. These products when started early and used monthly are more effective in the flea prevention and yet are probably safer on all ages of pets than many of the older generation of pesticides used in years past.

When we think of flies, most of us reach for a fly swatter to rid the kitchen of this unwanted pest. Flies can be a real burden for animals. The face fly attacks the ear tips on a small percent of usually longhaired outdoor dogs (collies, shepherds and huskies). The symptoms manifested are swollen, raw, bleeding, crusty ear tips. An insecticidal gel applied daily to the affected ear tips does wonders. Also supplementing the diet with Brewers yeast may alter your dog’s blood odor and indirectly repel the flies. This product is cheap and most dogs like it.

The most disagreeable fly strike is the blowfly. It is mostly commonly seen with longhaired, older pets, the very young, and pets with suppurative wounds or injuries. The flies are attracted by odors of urine, feces, or blood. The flies lay their eggs and within hours they hatch and feed on sores or wounds. Left untreated, they can and will kill your pet. Keep older pets clean and sheared in the summer. Keep their kennels clean, dry and insect free.

Saving the best or should I say worst for last, the pest that can ruin a beautiful outdoor evening is the mosquito. Besides its bothersome bite, this insect carries many diseases dangerous to man as well as animal.

The one disease, however, that has continued to become more and more prevalent to the Miami Valley is heartworm. This predominately dog parasite is also seen occasionally in cats and rarely has been in all warm-blooded animals including man. From a parasite indigenous to the southern gulf coast states and rarely seen in Ohio through the 1960s, heartworm has now become endemic throughout most of Ohio. This parasite’s larva enters the body through a mosquito bite and within 6 to 8 months can attain a length of 11-14”. Living on the right side of the heart and pulmonary vessels, they can over time result in chronic heart failure. There are usually no symptoms for 2 to 3 years. Due to its slow insidious nature, I truly believe most people do not appreciate the serious health problem posed by this pest. By the time symptoms appear, it is generally too late. If diagnosed early with annual blood testing by your veterinarian, the disease is very treatable. With all the preventative medications available today, your dog or cat does not need to be afflicted with this silent killer. From the older, still available and effective daily medications to the more popular monthly preventatives such as ‘Heartguard’, ‘Intercepter’ and ‘Revolution’, this parasite can be stopped before it happens.

The FDA has approved a new breakthrough in a 6-month time released injectable heartworm preventative called ‘Proheart-6’. It should be available from your veterinarian now. This product appears to have the positive attribute that the owner no longer need remember (or forget) to give that monthly pill.

Now as you enjoy a wonderful, warm Ohio summer sitting in the shade or by the pool with your pet, remember that your pets need plenty of shade and cool water too. Prevention is the key to a healthy, bug-free summer.


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